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What is a Local School Wellness Policy?

A local school wellness policy (“wellness policy”) is a written document that guides a local educational agency’s (LEA) or school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn.

The wellness policy requirement was established by the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004 and further strengthened by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). It requires each LEA participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program to develop a wellness policy. The final rule expands the requirements to strengthen policies and increase transparency. The responsibility for developing, implementing, and evaluating a wellness policy is placed at the local level, so the unique needs of each school under the LEA’s jurisdiction can be addressed.

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Regulation and Compliance Tools

Wellness Policy Timeline

  • Each year, notify the public of: the content of the Local Wellness Policy (including any updates), the position title of the designated school official(s) who lead the local wellness committee and how the public can get involved
  • Every 3 years: complete Triennial Assessment
  • Every 3-5 Years: school nutrition Administrative Review to assess compliance


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Nutrition Education and Promotion

Schools can provide students with opportunities to learn nutrition and engage in nutrition promotion that help students develop lifelong healthy eating behaviors.

  • Display a MyPlate poster in every classroom.
  • Teachers review school lunch menu each morning and discuss food groups.
  • Invite a Registered Dietitian or other health professional to present nutrition information to students.
  • Partner with curriculum director, family consumer science teachers, and PE teachers to incorporate nutrition education.

Resources to Support Nutrition Education and Promotion at Your School

  • Team Nutrition - Provides free (print and online) nutrition education resources for child nutrition programs.
  • Pick a Better Snack - Resources to promote fruits and vegetables (family newsletters, recipe cards, monthly lessons, bingo cards, scorecards, posters, and fact sheets).
  • Fruit and Vegetable Tasting Resources - Fact sheets, sample tasting schedule, how to hold a taste testing, tasting instructions for students, words to describe foods, food safety tips, and riddles.
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Physical Activity

Schools can provide students and staff with opportunities to engage in physical activity that meet federal and state guidelines, including the Iowa Healthy Kids Act.

  • Provide access to the gym and exercise equipment before and after school.
  • Educate teachers and administrators the academic benefits of physical activity.
  • Demonstrate brain breaks during staff meetings to encourage teachers to use them their classrooms.
  • Discourage withholding recess as a punishment.

Resources to Support Physical Activity at Your School

Stories in Motion

Short stories that include action words which prompt physical activity! Utilize these stories in the classroom or childcare setting for short brain breaks. Developed by Iowa Team Nutrition.

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Other School Based Activities

Other school based activities that promote wellness can ensure an integrated whole-school approach to the school's wellness program.

  • Create a wellness webpage that contains non-food celebration or reward ideas, school meal information, the wellness policy, and the assessment of implementation.
  • Involve high school students in organizing special events such as school-wide walks/runs or taste testing new food items in elementary schools.
  • Provide access to water fountains, dispensers, and hydration stations throughout the school.
  • Allow students to have water bottles in class or to go to the water fountain if they need to drink water.

Resources to Support Other School Based Activities that Promote Wellness

  • School Meal Promotion - Resources to promote and support school meals including communication templates for parents and staff.
  • Iowa Recess Before Lunch Guide - The pilot included an assessment of food and milk waste, photo estimation, and school staff interviews and surveys.
  • Water Availability During Meals - The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires schools to make free water available to students.
  • 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! - Statewide campaign coordinated by the Iowa Department of Public Health in partnership with the Healthiest State Initiative, provides a framework to create healthy environments.
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Nutrition Guidelines

Nutrition Guidelines for All Foods and Beverages Sold to Students

Schools providing access to foods outside reimbursable meal programs must meet the USDA Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition standards, at a minimum. This includes items sold through a la carte, vending machines, student run stores, and fundraising activities (before school, during school, and 30 minutes after).

  • Work with middle or high school classes or student groups to evaluate foods and beverages sold using the Smart Snacks calculator.
  • Educate administrators and teachers on Smart Snacks requirements.
  • Partner with school groups to sell foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks requirements.
  • Connect with food vendors to ensure they are aware of the requirements.

Resources to Support Nutrition Guidelines

  • School Menu Planning and Resources - Tools, trainings, and communication templates to assist with implementation of the school meal regulations.
  • Smart Snacks in School - Nutrition standards, approved product lists and recipes, calculator and student group resources.
  • Time to Eat School Meals - Strategies to consider when looking to increase the amount of time for school meals including pros and cons of implementation.
  • Making Time for School Lunch - CDC Healthy Schools Research Brief
  • Cafeteria Coaching - Utilize middle and high school students along with school nutrition staff to encourage kids to try new foods and eat nutritious school meals.

Standards for All Foods and Beverages Provided (not sold) to Students

Foods and beverages provided (not sold) to students during the school day (e.g. class parties, rewards) must meet standards set by the district. Non-food fundraising, classroom rewards, and classroom celebrations should complement the school wellness policy to provide consistent messages about health and wellness throughout the school. Best practice examples include:

  • Schools may set standards related to food safety or medical needs (i.e. allergies), best practice is that nutrition is also a consideration.
  • Provide parents and staff a list of foods and beverages that meet nutrition standards for classroom snacks and celebrations.
  • Provide ideas to teachers and staff for non-food rewards and celebrations ideas.

Resources to Support Nutrition Standards

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Food and Beverage Marketing

Schools must only allow marketing and advertising of foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks nutrition standards on campus during the school day.

  • Provide training to staff on food and beverage marketing requirements.
  • Ensure food vendors are aware of the district's marketing policy.
  • Display posters and bulletin boards promoting healthy foods.
  • Include healthy messages and school meal menus on electronic monitors.
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Wellness Leadership and Public Involvement

The superintendent or designee must implement and ensure compliance by reviewing the policy at least every 3 years and recommending updates as appropriate for board approval. Schools must permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, physical education teachers, school health professionals, school board, administrators, and the public to participate in the development, implementation, and review and update of the policy. Best practice examples include:

  • Schedule the wellness committee meeting to take place with another school group meeting (i.e. School Improvement Advisory Committee).
  • Delegate a wellness leader for each school building.
  • Email parents about upcoming wellness committee meetings.
  • Make the policy and assessment of the policy's progress available to the public by putting it on the school's wellness webpage.

Resources to Support Wellness Policy Committee and Public Involvement

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