School Wellness

What the Law Looks Like

In the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, the U.S. Congress established a requirement that all school districts with a federally funded school meals program develop and implement wellness policies that address nutrition and physical activity by the start of the 2006-2007 school year (Section 204).

When developing wellness policies, school districts needed to take into account their unique circumstances, challenges and opportunities. Among the factors considered were socioeconomic status of the student body, school size, rural or urban location, and presence of immigrant, dual-language, or limited-English students.  (http://www.schoolwellnesspolicies.org/)

Policies needed to cover areas of nutrition education, physical activity and nutrition standards for all foods available at school during the day. Areas addressed included nutritional value of foods, portion sizes, vending, after school programs, parties and meetings with food, the use of food as a reward or punishment, time and surroundings during meals, professional qualifications of food service personnel and means to evaluate the policies. Many wellness models were available for school districts to examine.

Policies should include all components required by law, i.e.

  • Goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other wellness activities
  • Guidelines for foods and beverages available on campus during the school day
  • Guidelines for other activities promoting wellness
  • Planning for implementation
  • Involvement of parents, students, representatives of nutrition program, school and public in the development of the policy

How the School Wellness Policy Impacts the School Nurse

Local school districts benefit greatly by having the school nurse involved with or leading the development of their school wellness policy. School nurses are positioned to take the lead in efforts aimed at improving the quality of students’ dietary intake in the school setting. School nurses have knowledge and expertise in the areas of nutrition, weight maintenance, and exercise. Because of their role, school nurses are knowledgeable about the needs and the resources necessary for wellness.

NASN Resources

National Association of School Nurses. (2013). Overweight and obesity in youth in schools—The role of the school nurse (Position Statement). Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Childhood Obesity web page on this website.

Other Resources

Action for Healthy Kids: Wellness Policy Tool

Alliance for a Healthier Generation: Wellness Policies

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Local School Wellness Policy 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC)

Center for Science in the Public Interest: National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity

U.S. Department of Agriculture: ChooseMyPlate.gov 

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Team Nutrition, Local School Wellness Policy 

Page last updated January 2016.