Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Wellness Policies


  1. Advertising in Schools
  2. BMI Reporting
  3. Class Parties
  4. Communities
  5. Food Rewards
  6. Fundraising
  7. Physical Education
  8. School Lunches
  9. Wellness Policies

9. Wellness Policies

What makes a good wellness policy a good one?

There are two components to a good wellness policy - Scope, and Specificity/Strength. The Scope of a policy is an index of what areas are included by the policy. For example, does it cover guidelines for all of the important areas (nutrition education, physical education, physical activity outside of PE, communication and promotion, evaluation, food standards for foods sold as part of the National School Lunch Program, food standards for foods sold or served outside of the NSLP).

The Specificity of the policy is an index of how clear and concrete the guidelines are - in other words, does is say something vague like, "Our school district will only sell or serve healthy snacks to students" without defining "healthy" or does it say, "Our school district will only sell or serve snacks to students that meet the 2007 Institute of Medicine a la carte nutrition standards for elementary and middle schools."

The Strength of a policy in an index of how strong the language is in the policy. For example, does it say "Our school district will strive to encourage parents to send in only non-food treats to celebrate children's birthdays in school" or does it say, "Our school district prohibits all food treats from home for classroom celebrations." What are some examples of effective wellness policies?

There are examples of comprehensive and strong wellness policies that were developed by NANA. Current research at the Rudd Center is also identifying strong policies from Connecticut.

What are your suggestions for how to create good wellness policies?

It's important to have all of the relevant people at the table. In particular, administrators and teachers need to be involved and engaged in the process if the policy is going to be enforced. The district should follow the federal guidelines on who to include on the committee.

A good policy uses strong and specific language. It needs to be clear to parents and teachers in the district what can be expected in the school environment. I like to imagine a parent walking into the Board of Education with the policy in hand and a question about something that is happening in his or her child's school Is the policy written clearly enough to provide an answer to the parent as to whether the school is or is not in compliance with the policy? A good policy will provide clear answers.

How can we teach children and teenagers to eat healthfully without encouraging eating disordered behavior?

A common misconception is that efforts to promote healthy eating will encourage eating disordered behavior. In fact, there is no evidence to support this. The key is to focus on promoting an environment in which it is easy to eat well - children and teens should be surrounded by opportunities to eat healthy foods and should not be surrounded by nutritionally poor foods. It is not helpful to put a bag of chips and an apple in front of a child and say, "OK, choose the right one." Instead, you should put a fresh and appetizing apple, an orange, and banana in front of the child, and say, "choose your favorite."