To Meet New Federal Requirements, Two Studies Show How to Implement, Evaluate and Report Information

2017-06-23

Since passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, many schools have been challenged to serve healthy meals, provide physical activity and nutrition education to students, as well as maintain financial and educational accountability. Taking effect this 2017-18 school year, all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Programs will also be required to meet expanded local school wellness policy requirements consistent with the requirements set forth in Section 204 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The final rule requires each local educational agency to establish minimum content requirements for the local school wellness policies, ensure stakeholder participation in the development and updates of such policies, and periodically assess and disclose to the public schools’ compliance with the local school wellness policies.

At a minimum, schools will be required to set goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness after reviewing and considering evidence-based strategies. Plus, set nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available on each school campus during the school day that are consistent with USDA school meal standards and Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.

The language included in these district wellness policies is critical to implementing the USDA standards and the nutrition and physical activity goals that are established within them. Do you understand them?

To help guide you through this process, the National Wellness Policy Study at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago has produced two new National Wellness Policy Studies, which are free and can be easily downloaded from your computer. Developed from a Bridging the Gap program research grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Principal Investigator Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD and her colleagues have collected research, analyzed and tracked school wellness policies and their implementation in elementary school at more than 960 school districts in 45 states.

These two reports will provide answers to: what does the wellness policy require and how do district wellness policies measure up, and discuss the importance of implementing, evaluating and reporting on wellness policies.

The report, Working on Wellness: How Aligned are District Wellness Policies with the Soon-To-Be-Implemented Federal Wellness Policy Requirements? Nationwide Baseline Information from the 2014-15 School Year, provides data on district wellness policies in effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year. This report will provide insights as to district policy readiness for, or alignment with the provisions of the USDA’s wellness policy final rule given the forthcoming implementation date (SY 2017-18); baseline information that tracks the incorporation of Smart Snacks standards into district wellness policies during the first year of implementation (SY 2014-15); and an assessment of the scope and intensity of wellness policy provisions in district policies within and across all topic areas and by selected district characteristics.

State laws can affect school wellness too. Presently, laws in 16 states require school district wellness policies beginning in SY 2014-15. The report, Active Role States Have Played in Helping to Transform the School Wellness Environment through Policy, provides historical data on state wellness policy-related laws (SY 2006-07 through 2014-15), baseline information on state laws related to the first year of Smart Snacks regulation (SY 2014-15), and insights as to how state laws align with the provisions of the USDA’s wellness policy final rule given the forthcoming implementation date (SY 2017-18). In addition, it provides an assessment of the scope and intensity of requirements included in state laws governing the local wellness policy environment for all years, across all topic areas, and by selected state characteristics is included.

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