The USDA recently released a proposed rule for local school wellness policies. These new policies will help districts establish school environments that promote students’ health, well-being and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating and physical activity.
The school wellness policy requirement started with the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, and was further strengthened by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Each school district that participates in the national school meals program must develop and put into place a wellness policy to promote student health and address the growing problem of childhood obesity.
The proposed rule strengthens the existing local wellness policies by seeing that schools have goals for nutrition promotion and education, and physical activity. The new rule will also require for the first time, that schools limit marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and beverages during the school day.
School wellness committees will develop these policies at the local level to address the unique needs of each school, and will include parents and key community stakeholders in making policy. National surveys show that parents support such efforts. Committees will be led by one or more school district officials to ensure proper development, implementation and coordination of the wellness policy throughout the school.
The final rule is expected to take effect in the 2015-16 school year. It will improve public reporting and provide transparency with parents, students and the community on implementation, progress and review of the wellness policy. Parents and other community stakeholders are encouraged to begin working with their local school districts now to provide input and prepare for the new, stronger policy needs. Healthy kids learn better, so work with your school district to create healthy schools!
Thomas E. Hohensee
Hohensee is the health promotion/disease prevention specialist coordinator for the Healthy Schools New York program of Bassett Healthcare.