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School Wellness Policy

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Offering seasonal fresh produce from local farms on a salad bar - photo courtesy of Lake Stevens School District

Ensuring Farm to School Program with School Wellness Policy

Farm to school programs can promote a healthy nutrition environment, which fosters improved student health. Incorporating farm to school goals and commitments into school and district policies can ensure that the work continues over time and make a statement that farm to school is a priority.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required that all schools and districts participating in federally reimbursable meals programs create and adopt wellness policies by the 2006-07 school year. At a minimum wellness policies must: 

  1. Include goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness.
  2. Establish nutrition guidelines for all foods available on campus during the school day with the objectives of promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity.
  3. Provide assurance that guidelines for reimbursable school meals shall not be less restrictive than regulations and guidance issued by the Secretary of Agriculture.
  4. Establish a plan for measuring the impact and implementation of the local wellness policy.
  5. Involve parents, students, and representatives of the school authority, school board, school administrators, and the public in development of the local wellness policy.

In the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, Congress created requirements to strengthen wellness policies by emphasizing ongoing implementation and assessment. This provision also supports public involvement, including the expansion of the team of collaborators participating in the wellness policy development, implementation and review to include more members from the community. The provision requires Local Education Autorities (LEAs) to:

  1. Permit teachers of physical education and school health professionals as well as paretns, students, and representatives of the school food authority, the school board, school administrators, and the public to participate in the development of wellness policies.
  2. Include these stakeholders in the implementation of the local wellness policy with periodic review and updates.
  3. Inform and update the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of the local wellness policies.
  4. Measure periodically and make available to the public an assessment of the local wellness policy.
  5. Designate one or more LEA officials or school officials, as appropriate, to ensure that each school complies with the local wellness policy.

In addition to the elements established in 2004, the 2010 provision added the requirement that local wellness policies include goals for nutrition promotion. Nutrition promotion implementation may include marketing, food demonstration or tasting, and theme days or months, etc., that tie in well with your Farm to School Program.

Farm to School in Wellness Policies

 Here are some resources that include sample language to support local purchasing and other farm to school activities with a comprehensive wellness policy. 

Sample Farm to School Language for School Wellness Policies from Public Health-Seattle & King County

Sample School Wellness Policy: Farm to School by Public Health Law Center (June 2011) [external link]

Incorporating School Garden Language into a School Wellness Policies by Wisconsin School Garden Initiative (December 2013) [external link]

Examples of school districts in Washington with strong provisions for using fresh, healthy, and local foods in school meal:

LaConner School District

Lopez Island School District

**If your district has policy language that encourages using produce from Washington growers or school gardens, or otherwise supports agricultural and environmental education in your schools, please share it with us by emailing  farmtoschool@agr.wa.gov.

 

General Wellness Policy Resources

Many organizations have created resources to assist schools as they consider wellness policy development or updates (not specific to farm to school):

School Wellness Policy Best Practices manual from OSPI helps with policy development, implementation and evaluation. It's designed to help schools implement the requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Throughout the toolkit you will ?nd best practice examples of the great things schools across Washington are doing to improve nutrition and physical activity.

Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit [external link] from USDA Food & Nutrition Services helps engage school staff and parents in school wellness using  ready-to-go communication tools. Sharing news about your Local School Wellness Policy is easy with these flyers, presentations, newsletter articles, and social media posts. Your school can personalize them to make them specific to your Local School Wellness Policy activities.

Wellness Policy Toolkit [external link] developed by the Action for Healthy Kids is intended to help anyone involved in developing, implementing, and evaluating wellness policies by providing practical guidance and how-to information about the wellness policy process.

Rethinking School Lunch Guide [external link] This resource for reforming school lunch articulates and provides resources on ten pathways that make up its planning framework. You may download the complete guide, or scroll down to the "Policy" piece for information on wellness policy development and implementation.

BIG IDEAS: Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment [external link] This resource offers a variety of learning opportunities based on relevant key concepts aligned with the Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and other recent standards. While this is not a sample policy, use as an inspiration as you develop or update your School Wellness Policy. Thr free, downloadable guide is available at the link.

Model school wellness policies [external link] Developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, the model school wellness policies are just one of a series of tools developed to support the organization's policy priorities to promote healthy eating and physical activity to improve public health.

Local Wellness Policies FAQs [external link]   This FAQ is published by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which is the national nonprofit professional organization that provides education and training, sets standards through certification and credentialing, and gathers and transmits relevant information related to school nutrition to its 55,000 members.  This is a great place to start learning about wellness policies and how they fit in to school meal programs.

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Last Updated: 4/20/2017