Support Strong Local Wellness Policies in Schools

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This page has references for the USDA school wellness rulegeneral resources; tips for advocates; high-level policy options; resources for local wellness policy committees; best practices for advocates; and detailed resources on individual policy components.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA)

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) made significant improvements to school foods and other child nutrition programs, providing children with more nutritious food options and teaching children healthy habits that can last a lifetime. The HHFKA established national nutrition standards for all food sold in schools, strengthened local wellness policies, improved the nutritional quality of school meals, strengthened accountability of school meals, and improved meal financing to support healthy school meals.

Local School Wellness Policies

What is a local school wellness policy? A local school wellness policy (“wellness policy” or LWP) is a written document that guides a local educational agency (LEA) or school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn. They are an important and low-cost approach for school districts to ensure robust implementation of the updated nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and beverages as well as address other school foods and physical activity.

Since children spend many of their waking hours and eat up to half their daily calories at school, schools play a critical role in building healthy nutrition and physical activity habits that can last a lifetime. Additionally, healthy, active children also perform better academically and have fewer behavioral problems. LWPs are designed to implement the updated nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and beverages, and address nutrition education, marketing of unhealthy food and beverages, physical activity, physical education, and recess.

LWPs were established by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 and were further strengthened by the HHFKA. Each school district participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program must develop and implement a LWP.

Schools are working hard to offer healthier meals and snacks. However, when it comes to LWPs, most school districts will need to realign their existing policies with the updated requirements. In addition, many school districts’ will need to strengthen implementation of their LWP to ensure that it is in effect in each school within the district.

What's new in the HHFKA?

  • LWPs will include a policy addressing marketing of unhealthy food and beverages (foods and beverages that do not meet the Smart Snacks standards).
  • LWPs will have enhanced community involvement:
    • Permit involvement in the LWP development by the general public and the school community (including parents, students, representatives of the school food service, physical education teachers, school health professionals, the school board, and school administrators).
    • Public availability of the LWP, notification of any updates to the LWP, and a triennial assessment.
    • Annual notification on content and implementation of LWP, which should include: the website for the wellness policy and/or information on how the public can access a copy; description of each school’s progress in meeting the wellness policy goals; summary of each school’s local school wellness events or activities; contact information for the leader(s) of the wellness policy team; and information on how individuals and the public can get involved.
  • LWPs will have enhanced compliance:
    • A school official must be designated responsible for compliance.
    • LWP will be included in the state’s administrative review of compliance with school meals and snack standards.
    • The school district must assess every 3 years on how the LWP compares to model policies and progress made in attaining LWP goals.
  • Given recent updates to national school nutrition standards for school meals, and snacks and beverages (Smart Snacks), most school districts will likely need to realign their LWP with the updated standards.
  • School districts were already setting goals for nutrition promotion, nutrition education, physical activity, and school wellness activities, but goals should be based on evidence-based strategies.

Resources and Links

Final Rule

General Resources

Advocacy Tips

Policy Options

Committee Resources

Best Practices

Policy Components

See below for resources on classroom snacks, farm-to-school, food marketing in schools, food as a reward, fruits and vegetables, healthy fundraisers, kitchen equipment, nutrition promotion and education, healthy celebrations, physical activity, physical education, recess, safe routes to school, shared use, professional development, staff wellness, water access, policy evaluation tools, and more.

Classroom Snacks

Farm to School

Food Marketing

Food Rewards

Fruits & Vegetables

Fundraising

Kitchen Equipment

Nutrition Promotion and Education

Parties/Celebrations

Physical Activity (before and after School, and in Classroom)

Physical Education

Recess

Safe Routes to School

Shared Use

Staff Qualifications and Professional Development

Staff Wellness

Water Access

Evaluation Tools

Additional Resources

*The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program gives schools and school districts guidance, technical assistance, training, and support to create and sustain healthy changes, including assistance with wellness policy creation and implementation. To enroll in the Healthy Schools Program, please click here. Members will have access (free of charge) to additional resources, including the model wellness policy.