What is a School Wellness Policy?
A local school wellness policy is a written document that guides a local educational agency (LEA) or school district’s efforts to create supportive school nutrition and physical activity environments. This is important because each local education agency participating in federal Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program is required to develop and implement a wellness policy.
You will find your wellness policies on the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) website. Most districts policies are placed in multiple documents, depending on their application:
Nutrition Guidelines- CO (and FJ)
Wellness Nutrition Promotion- EHAA (HHFKA)
Wellness Physical Activity- BDF, EHAA, EHAB, and EHAC (and GKD)
Wellness Public Notification and Records- (HHFKA) (CPC and FFA (LEGAL)
Wellness Plan- FFA (LOCAL)
There may be other policies that are applicable to your district. You should check with your District legal team if you need assistance or consult with TASB.
Creating a Wellness Policy
Wellness policies can be integrated into the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model for school health, and can help put into action several provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, including Title I and Title IV. Local Wellness Policies can address policies and practices for before-, during-, and after-school.
Local School Wellness Policy Requirements List
Wellness policies were introduced following the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, infants, and Children Program) Reauthorization Act of 2004 that mandated all school districts participating in federal school programs to create and implement school wellness policies (Joyner et al., 2021). In addition, the federal Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 (PL 111-296) and the Local School Wellness Policy final ruling (2016) required school districts to have local wellness policies that include, at minimum, goals for:
Include goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote students wellness. In developing these goals, local educational agencies must review and consider evidence-based strategies.
Include nutrition guidelines for all foods sold on each school campus during the school day that are consistent with federal regulations for school meals and Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
Include policies for foods and beverages made available to students (e.g., in classroom parties, classroom snacks brought by parents, other foods given as incentives).
Include policies for food and beverage marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only those foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
Permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and the general public to participate in the development, implementation, and update of the local school wellness policy.
Identify one or more school districts or school officials who have the authority and responsibility to ensure each school complies with the policy.
Inform and update the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the local school wellness policy on an annual basis.
At least once every 3 years, measure how schools are in compliance with the local school wellness policy, the extent to which the local education agency’s local wellness policy compares to model local school wellness policies, and the progress made in attaining the goals of the local wellness policy. Make the assessment available to the public.
Wellness Policy Resources
Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has developed a wellness policy worksheet as well as a Wellness Plan template to help school districts develop and update their policies.
USDA has helpful information on their website with links to the history of the policy, summary of the final rule and other tools and resources.
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TXDAG) has posted resources on wellness policies including a one page document on the requirements for marketing food and beverages to students at school.
TXDAG has also posted a Local Wellness Policy (LWP) Checklist to help ensure the local wellness policy, plan and triennial assessment include all required content.
WellSAT Assessment Tools
If you would like to assess your existing wellness policy, the most widely used assessment tool is the WellSAT, developed by the UCONN RUDD Center for Health Policy.
The WellSAT 3.0 is an instrument that quantitatively measures school wellness policy among school districts. The main goal of the WellSAT tool is to identify best practices and areas for improvement in school districts regarding nutrition and physical activity (Center, 2018). The WellSAT covers 78 policies topics categorized into six focus areas: Nutrition Education, Standards for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs and School Meals, Nutrition Standards for Competitive and Other Foods and Beverages, Physical Education and Physical Activity, Wellness Promotion and Marketing and Implementing, and Evaluation and Communication.
UCONN Collaboratory on School and Child Health has recently completed a new tool, the WellSAT WSCC, aligned with the Whole School, Whole Community, and Whole Child (WSCC) model that builds on the history of the WellSAT developed by the Rudd Center. V1 of the WellSAT WSCC was created in Fall 2019. The tool was updated to V2 in June 2021.
The State of Texas has several laws that pertain to School Health Advisory Councils and to Coordinated School Health.