Local School Wellness Policies (LWPs) can be an easy and effective way to make your school a healthier environment. After the passage of the 2004 Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act, all local educational agencies and school districts using the National School Lunch Plan (NSLP) were required to create LWPs. LWPs are often underutilized tools within school lunch programs and within the school wide culture. Additionally, the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act called for more stringent regulations related to the implementation, evaluation, and public reporting to LWPs. Despite these provisions, many LWPs are forgotten, loosely enforced, or unrealistic, which causes them to have very little effect on the school’s nutrition. In order to combat this, follow these tips to make sure your school foods program is making the most out of your LWP.
Be specific when planning. The more detailed and descriptive the LWP, the more likely your school will be to follow the guidelines. Specific regulations and definitions, such as clearly stating what is meant by “healthy foods,” will make it easier later on to evaluate if you are sticking to your goals.
Publicize it. Tell students, parents, faculty, staff, and fellow administrators about the LWP. Rather than taking away the students’ French Fries without explanation, talk to stakeholder groups about the long-term goals of the LWP and allow people to offer their opinions. An unpopular LWP is unlikely to be widely adopted, so getting everyone on board is vital.
Ask for opinions. If certain people are strongly opposed to some changes, listen to them and discuss compromises. If students refuse to eat the new food or participate in behavioral changes, the LWP is not doing its job.
Be realistic. Try not to overestimate what is possible or underestimate what the students will be willing to try. While it may not be possible for your building to have a school garden if there is not enough available space, don’t assume that students would be uninterested in gardening on a smaller scale, such as within classrooms. Keeping budget restraints in mind, consider what changes students would actually adopt, and then work on implementing them. Ask students for honest feedback on the LWP’s goals and methods and for helpful suggestions for implementation.
Constantly evaluate progress. Don’t wait until the end of the year to evaluate the new changes. Establish a clear and consistent way to measure the success of the policy and make quarterly adjustments as needed. By continually checking in the progress of the LWP, you will ensure that the plan is actually being put to use.
Tisa Hill and Julie Apuzzo, Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences
For More Information
For a more thorough guide to LWP planning, implementation, and evaluation, visit Action for Healthy Kids’ website.
For more information on the history of LWP’s in local educational agencies and schools, look at the USDA’s website.