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Local School Wellness Policy

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Each local educational agency that participates in the National School Lunch Program or other federal child nutrition programs is required by federal law to establish a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction.

Local wellness policies are an important tool for parents, local educational agencies (LEAs) and school districts in promoting student wellness, preventing and reducing childhood obesity, and providing assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards.

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A group of parents and teachers gathering to discuss school wellness

Congress recognizes that schools play a critical role in promoting student health, preventing childhood obesity, and combating problems associated with poor nutrition and physical inactivity. In 2004, Congress passed the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Reauthorization Act (Sec. 204 of PL 108-265). This act required by law that all LEAs participating in the National School Lunch Program or other child nutrition programs create local school wellness policies by School Year 2006. The legislation places the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each LEA can be addressed.

In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Sec. 204 of PL 111-296), and added new provisions for local school wellness policies related to implementation, evaluation, and publicly reporting on progress of local school wellness policies.  

On Feb. 26, 2014, the proposed rule for wellness policies was published in the Federal Register. The public comment period closed on April 28, 2014. FNS appreciates the valuable comments provided by stakeholders and the public. FNS received 57,838 public comments that included 546 distinct submissions and 57,285 form letters that were submitted through four large letter campaigns and four small letter campaigns. FNS considered all comments in the development of this final rule.

On July 21, 2016, the final rule was published in the Federal Register. The final rule strengthens the requirements on public involvement, transparency, implementation, and evaluation among other topics.

Overview of Requirements
  • As of School Year 2006-2007, all districts were required to establish a local school wellness policy.
  • The final rule requires LEAs to begin developing a revised local school wellness policy during School Year 2016-2017. LEAs must fully comply with the requirements of the final rule by June 30, 2017. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Permitting parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and the general public to participate in the development, implementation, review, and update of the local wellness policy.
    • Identifying wellness policy leadership of one or more LEA and/or school official(s) who have the authority and responsibility to ensure each school complies with the policy.
    • Informing and updating the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of the local wellness policy.
    • Ensuring the wellness policy includes all of the required components.
  • Specific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness. LEAs are required to review and consider evidence-based strategies in determining these goals.
  • Nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available or for sale on the school campus during the school day that are consistent with federal regulations for:
    • School meal nutrition standards, and
    • Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Policies for other foods and beverages available on the school campus during the school day (e.g., in classroom parties, classroom snacks brought by parents, or other foods given as incentives).
  • Policies for food and beverage marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only those foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Description of public involvement, public updates, policy leadership, and evaluation plan.

All LEAs must assess their wellness policy at least once every three years on the extent to which schools are in compliance with the district policy, the extent to which the local wellness policy compares to model local school wellness policies, and the progress made in attaining the goals of the local wellness policy. LEAs must make this assessment available to the public.