The school environment plays a large role in the health and wellness for our children. Schools are places that can impact many children. I wasn’t aware that schools were mandated to have a Health and Wellness Policy until after I completed my dissertation, The Relationship Among Playground Areas and Physical Activity Levels in Children. What is the School Wellness Policy? How can parents help?
What is the School Wellness Policy?
In 2004, Congress passed the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act. All school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program were required to create wellness policies by 2006. Policies had to include:
- Nutrition guidelines for ALL foods available on campus during the day. The goal is to reduce childhood obesity and promote student health.
- Goals to promote student wellness. Includes physical activity, nutrition education, and other school-based activities.
- One designated person from the school district to measure implementation
- A plan to report the policies and implementations to the public
- A periodic policy assessment plan
- Nutrition promotion goals
Why was the School Wellness Policy implemented?
- Reach many children. “About 95% of the nation’s children and adolescents are enrolled in schools, and they typically spend 6 hours a day for up to 13 years in school.”
- Schools can give children and adolescents more chances to
- Eat nutritious meals, snacks, and drinks
- Get regular physical activity (exercise)
- Learn and develop lifelong healthy behaviors
- Eating a healthy breakfast has been associated with
- improvements in memory,
- mood, and
- academic performance, as well as well as fewer absences in school.
- School-based physical activity is associated with
- improved grades and standardized test scores,
- as well as better cognitive skills,
- attitudes, and
- academic behavior.
How Can I Find my School Wellness Policy?
You can complete a simple search. For example, here is Nevada’s School Wellness Policy. Here is a model school wellness policy. For additional information, review the report published in 2013 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation evaluating the School District Wellness Policies.
How Can Parents Help?
Parents can lead initiatives. Here are some examples.
- Health fairs
- School gardens
- Offer to teach a nutrition lesson to students
- Walking school buses (kids walk to school in a group)
- Active recess programs (e.g., jogging and walking program, dance, organized games)
- After-school sports or exercise clubs
- Physical activity breaks in the classroom
- Encourage teachers to incorporate physical activity with teaching lessons (e.g., hopping and counting)
- Schoolyard and playground improvements
- Recess before lunch (children often throw their food away to have more time to play)
- Family health nights
- Healthy rewards
- Encourage your school to have projects for the students to teach health promotion (e.g., eating healthy, brushing teeth, exercise)
- Access to salads in the lunchroom
- Fruits and vegetables at lunch
- Healthy snacks and celebration guidelines
- Monitoring vending machine options. Additionally, consider what food items are sold during school sponsored events (e.g., sporting events).
Here are some great resources on School Wellness Policies.
- For parental involvement suggestions (action for healthy kids), click here
- USDA information on local school wellness policies, click here
- Wellness Policy Assessment Tool (WellSAT), click here
- Action for Healthy Kids best practices for schools, click here
- For specific School Wellness Policy requirements, click here
- Putting School Wellness Policy in action, click here
- Make a Difference at Your School, click here
In summary, as parents, we have a lot on our plates! Examining your School Health and Wellness Policy may seem overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to provide information on School Health and Wellness Policies. Parents can help in any way they feel capable or compelled to do. We are trying out best to raise healthy kids, and that’s commendable.
On a personal note
My children have attended schools that offer a wellness night. Additionally, one of my children attended a school that offered a before school jogging and walking program. I tried to implement this program at another elementary school. It’s not easy to do if the principal is not on board. 😬
Do you have anything your school does to help with
health promotion, or