A Parent’s Guide to School Wellness Policies

What is a school wellness policy?

In 2004, Congress passed a law stating that each local educational agency (including school districts) that participates in the National School Lunch Program, or any other federal child nutrition program, is required by federal law to establish a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction.

These local school wellness policies serve as tools to promote student wellness, prevent and reduce childhood obesity, and provide assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards.

Children being served lunch at school

School wellness policies are important because they go beyond government-funded meal programs to create environments conducive to healthy lifestyle choices. These policies recognize the critical role schools play in helping to stop the childhood obesity epidemic, while acknowledging the local community’s responsibility to support efforts.

Under the law, schools are required to set goals for nutrition education and daily physical activity as well as set nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available on school campuses during the school day.

It is likely that your child’s school district has its own School Wellness Policy, and there are steps you can take to become involved and promote wellness both through the school and at home.

Ask Questions

The best way to start getting involved with the wellness initiative at your school is to communicate. If you indicate your interest and passion for health and wellness at your child’s school, the school’s leadership will mostly likely respond in a positive way. Start by reaching out to the principal and teachers of your school to ask about the wellness policy.

Students raise their hands in class

Some good questions to ask:

  • Where can I find a copy of our school’s wellness policy?
  • Do we have a school wellness committee that parents can be involved in?
  • What are some obstacles the school faces when trying to implement a wellness policy?
  • What are the best ways parents can get involved?
  • What can we do to make wellness a priority in our school?

Get Involved

School Wellness Policies work best with family engagement. Even if you don’t have much time to volunteer, there are many ways you can support the wellness initiative at your child’s school.

  • Advocate for the creation of a School Wellness Committee at your school if one doesn’t exist already
  • Request childcare options during School Wellness Committee meetings to encourage parent participation
  • Volunteer to participate on the School Wellness Committee
  • Request that your school notify and make easily accessible their wellness policy and their implementation and assessment plan to parents
  • Celebrate your child’s birthday by sending non-food treats such as stickers or pencils
  • Model healthy behaviors and promote healthy choices at home

Find Out More

USDA guide to School Wellness Policies. CDC guide to School Wellness Polices.