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Steps for Establishing a Local Wellness Policy

Public school districts in Kentucky are required to have a wellness policy in place to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 172. Many schools and districts wish to revise these policies to make them more specific to the needs of their students and staff. Before revision, get a copy of your district’s or school’s wellness policy and think of ways to enhance the policy, while meeting the requirements of the Section 204 of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.
There are no standard procedures for developing a school wellness policy. The following (adapted from Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn) are some basic steps to get you started. Frequently asked questions about Senate Bill 172.
Six steps:

  1. Form a team
  2. Assess the needs
  3. Create and evaluate policies
  4. Market the established policies
  5. Implement policies
  6. Maintain the effort

1. Form a team
It is important to recognize any existing efforts underway in the school or community. This might help you determine whether a new team is necessary or whether you can establish a local wellness policy through existing efforts. If your school already has a school health council under the Coordinated School Health program, or other similar infrastructure with Team Nutrition, they will be well positioned to assist in the development of the policy. If your district is interested in establishing such a council, there are several national and state resources available.
2. Assess the needs
Before making plans to develop policies, you should assess the needs of your students. Look for data on the education and health status of students in your state through the following Web sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additional resources to help you assess your school's needs:

Healthy Schools Builder is an online tool from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation that guides schools through the process of establishing healthier school environments. The builder can help your school identify their status as a healthy school and develop a customized action plan to make positive, healthy changes.

Changing the Scene Improvement Checklist is a simple checklist to help you take an honest look at where things stand in your school and to help focus on exactly what needs to be done. The State of Michigan modified this improvement checklist to make it more user-friendly.

School Health Index - A Self-assessment and Planning Guide is CDC's self-assessment and planning guide for physical activity and healthy eating. This tool enables schools to identify the strengths and weaknesses of nutrition policies and programs and develop an action plan for improvement. There is a training manual and a planning tool specifically for elementary and middle and high schools.

3. Create and evaluate policies
The National Association of State Boards of Education has been systematically collecting state policies on a number of school health topics. NASBE also summarizes state policies on any given topic. Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn is a school health policy guide developed by NASBE that provides sections on nutrition and physical activity policy development. Be sure to look at Chapter E for information on physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco-use prevention.

The CDC's Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating. The summary details guidelines for school-based strategies most likely to be effective in promoting lifelong healthy eating among young people.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Guidelines for School and Community Programs to Promote Lifelong Physical Activity Among Young People. These guidelines identify the strategies most likely to be effective in helping young people adopt and maintain a physically active lifestyle.  

Model Wellness Policy Language for Water Access in Schools: By providing drinking water as an alternative to soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, schools can promote children's health overall and play an important role in the fight against childhood obesity.  

Your School Wellness Policy: What You Need to Know.  This teacher's kit provides resources and how-to information on school health policy areas, such as: why schools have a wellness policy and what they are, educating children on lifelong healthy eating, making physical activity part of every school day, alternatives to food rewards, healthy fundraising and how teachers can support healthy school nutrition environments.  

4. Market the established policies
This very important step enlists widespread support for the goals and strategies of your school wellness policy. Steps that can assist you in building this support include:

  • Involve those affected by the policy
  • Anticipate, respond to and involve critics
  • Apply communication strategies
  • Involve other student-serving agencies in the community
  • Involve people from a variety of community groups

5. Implement policies
Developing and adopting sound policies are only the first steps. Implementing them requires good planning and management skills, the necessary resources, consistent enforcement and widespread buy-in by school staff and the local community. Leadership, commitment, communication and support are the keys to your success.
6. Maintain the effort
A sustained effort is necessary for implementing and reinforcing these policies. Periodically assess how well the policy is being managed and enforced, and evaluate any financial impact to vending policies. Evaluation and feedback are very important in maintaining a sound school wellness policy.   
WellSAT is an online tool created for schools and districts to assess the quality of their wellness policies, and offers personalized guidance and resources for making improvements, based on assessment results.
Fit Classrooms>Creating a Healthy School>Wellness Policy>Resources