What is a Wellness Policy?
Any school district that participates in the National School Lunch Program is required to have a Local Wellness Policy. Wellness Policies provide guidelines for schools to create environments that promote healthy behaviors. The policy is created by a team of school district administrative staff, partners, and community members and applies to all schools in the district.
In Maryland, Wellness Policies have additional requirements around mental health services, school safety, and other areas that affect student health and wellness.
Wellness Policies are carried out at individual schools. Many schools have Wellness Teams tasked with overseeing implementation of the Wellness Policy at the school. Wellness Teams are encouraged to use the resources throughout this toolkit to help create a healthy school environment!
Here’s what to look for in your school district’s Wellness Policy:
- School Meals: Wellness Policies contain nutrition standards for foods that can be served in schools on the lunch line. School districts are encouraged to consider incorporating Smarter Lunchrooms practices into their school meal programs.
- Healthy Food: Wellness Policies must include standards for all foods and beverages available to students, including policies governing classroom parties or school celebrations that involve food, food-related rewards and incentives, and fundraisers. Goals for nutrition promotion and education should be included in the policy as well.
- Healthy Beverages: Beverages sold, provided, or marketed to students during the school day must meet USDA Smart Snacks in Schools standards. School districts may elect to create additional rules around healthy beverages in their Wellness Policy.
- Physical Activity: Wellness Policies cover rules for physical activity during gym class and throughout the day.
- Farm to School: Connecting to farms as a means of promoting preference for healthy foods may be encouraged in your district’s Wellness Policy.
- Gardening: School gardens as a means of promoting preference for healthy foods may be encouraged in your district’s Wellness Policy.
- Worksite Wellness: Offering staff wellness activities that inspire school staff to serve as role models of healthy behaviors may be encouraged in your district’s Wellness Policy.
- Maryland School Wellness: A website highlighting school wellness research and best practices in Maryland.
- A Guide for School Level Implementation of Wellness Policies and Practices: A guide supporting school-based Wellness Teams in their work.
- USDA Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit: A set of communication templates to help you engage parents, teachers, and other members of the school community in a Wellness Team.
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation School Wellness Committee Toolkit: A guide to convening a Wellness Team and how to effectively direct the committee’s efforts.
- School Health Index: An online self-assessment to evaluate a school’s current wellness environment, and identify areas of opportunity. NOTE: you will have to create a login to use the tool.