School districts across the nation that participate in the National School Lunch Program are required to revise their "wellness policies" during the 2016-17 school year -- a move intended to build support for healthy eating and physical activity.
The new directive was adopted in late July under a provision in the federal child nutrition law known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The revised school wellness policies must be completed by June 30, 2017.
Wellness policies are formal statements that outline the latest school nutrition standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and set school or district-specific goals for how to spread the word and get students and families to eat well and be active. Wellness policies first were required in 2006-07 for schools that participate in the federal meals program, which more than 90 percent of public and private schools do.
School Wellness Committees, including parents, physical education teachers, community members and food services staff, are to be convened to update the policies with the latest nutrition standards for school meals, snacks and on-campus fundraisers.
Their tasks might include publicizing the rule that only low-fat, low-sugar food and drink that meet the "Smart Snacks in Schools" standards are allowed at classroom birthday parties, for example. The committee would promote fundraisers that rely on "fun runs" rather than cupcakes and support student and community activities, such as planting a vegetable garden and eating the results.
The new outreach requirement gives families and community members "tangible ways they can provide their support to improve school nutrition and physical activity for students and staff," said
Michelle Owens, a national policy advisor at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
The California Department of Education is required to evaluate every three years how districts are doing with setting and achieving nutrition education and physical activity goals. Owens said:
"The Alliance for a Healthier Generation strongly encourages schools to annually assess their implementation, create an action plan that fosters implementation, generate an annual progress report and document their progress on an annual basis."
Model School Wellness Policies
Webinar: Local Wellness Policies with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Wed., Sept. 7, 10 a.m. PT. Register here. Click on the tab for "Upcoming Webinars" and select Local Wellness Policies, Sept. 7.