Where School Wellness Policies Fall Short

December 28, 2009

Baseline research from the first two years of the mandate reveals the major shortfalls are in the following areas:

Quality, Funding, and Implementation

Nutrition Education and Nutrition Standards

Physical Activity Requirements

Kids spend most of their waking hours in school, and eat 30-50% of their calories there on school days.  Ideally, a healthy school environment supports learning the importance of lifelong healthy behaviors, getting regular physical activity, making healthy eating choices.  It’s what the government mandates with its local school wellness policy requirement.  Realistically, though, most school wellness policies are falling short. 

Some ask, schools are following the letter of the law, isn’t that good enough?  No.  First and foremost this law requires only that the school has written a policy with general goals.  It does not require specific guidelines be written for those goals, nor does it require that the school take action.  It requires implementation plans, which are not funded.  And the enforcement language is weak, including no reporting requirement or penalty for inaction.

For now, the law has been extended for one more year, but it will be revised and renewed in 2010.  We still believe a healthy school environment is about more than a policy or a mandate. 

You have to have simple, inexpensive and easy-to-implement solutions that include health as part of each and every school day. 

Over the years, we’ve learned what’s most effective and how to overcome barriers, and I intend to share that with you in a series of blogs to start off the new year.  So, in your opinion, what changes could be made to help schools become healthier, and stay that way?       

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