An important aspect of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (2010) is that school districts (or Local Education Agencies, LEAs) that participate in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program are required to have a Local School Wellness Policy (LWP). This policy defines districts’ efforts to fight childhood obesity and support healthy lifestyles by ensuring school meals meet federal nutrition guidelines and securing opportunities for physical activity before, during, and after the school day.
Many organizations provide free, useful guidance on how to create a SWP. This support may include advice for convening the initial wellness Committee, text samples, writing tips, and ideas for revising the original Wellness Policy as years pass and new goals and strategies are selected. A simple internet search can pull up a wealth of free resources. The USDA is a good place to start and provides actual adopted wellness policies from which to draw inspiration. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an easy-to-use list of policy requirements. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation provides detailed advice on starting a Wellness Committee as well as writing and revising a wellness policy. They also provide webinars on the subject.
When drafting or updating your policy, don’t forget to include Smarter Lunchrooms! The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is a natural fit for this initiative – in fact, wellness committees are federally required to review Smarter Lunchrooms tools and strategies as part of their drafting process!* The versatile strategies are research-based, low-cost or free, and easy to implement in any K-12 school. Best of all, they appeal to a wide variety of stakeholder groups who may comprise a wellness committee. Parents and school administrators like that these techniques/tools introduce kids to new healthy foods and encourage them to select, eat, and enjoy healthy food in schools without engendering backlash like heavier-handed policies can do. Healthy food choices and physical activity have been linked to improved health outcomes, classroom behavior, and academic performance, which appeals to teachers, too. Improved participation in the meal program (and subsequent revenue) is good for the school food service team. Perhaps most importantly, Smarter Lunchrooms appeals to kids by increasing their representation within the lunchroom, improving their feelings about healthy eating and school meals.
Here are examples of ways Smarter Lunchrooms can be incorporated into the Nutrition, Nutrition Promotion, and Professional Development sections of your policy. You can download a printable version of these sample texts here.
Use Sample A as a quick and simple way to integrate use of the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard into the food service operation.
Our district uses evidence-based strategies from The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement to encourage selection and consumption of healthy food choices in the cafeteria. Each school will complete the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard annually with goal of achieving Gold. This goal will be overseen and implemented by the Food Service Director.
Use Sample B to indicate that each school cafeteria will implement at least 5 Smarter Lunchrooms strategies.
Our district uses evidence-based strategies from The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement to encourage selection and consumption of healthy food choices in the cafeteria. All schools participating in the National School Lunch Program will utilize at least 5 of the following Smarter Lunchroom strategies:
- Fruit is offered in at least two locations on all service lines, one of which is right before the point of sale.
- Sliced or cut fruit is offered.
- A variety of mixed whole fruits are displayed in attractive bowls or baskets (instead of stainless steel pans).
- At least two kinds of vegetables are offered.
- Vegetables are incorporated into the main entrée at least monthly.
- White milk is offered in all beverage coolers.
- Alternative entrée options (e.g., salad bar, yogurt parfaits, etc.) are highlighted on posters or signs within all service and dining areas.
- Students are offered a taste test of a new entrée at least once a year.
- Students provide feedback (informal – “raise your hand if you like…” or formal – focus groups, surveys) to inform menu development.
- Students, teachers, or administrators share the daily menu in announcements.
Use language from sample C to incorporate Smarter Lunchrooms into the Nutrition Promotion and Professional Development sections of the Wellness Policy.
The District will promote healthy food and beverage choices for all students throughout the school campus, as well as encourage participation in school meal programs. This promotion will occur by implementing evidence-based healthy food promotion techniques through the school meal programs using Smarter Lunchroom techniques.
The district will ensure that food service staff receive professional development in Smarter Lunchrooms Movement principles, strategies and practices.
There are many other ways to incorporate Smarter Lunchrooms into your Wellness Policy. Be creative and thoughtful in what will work best for your district.
Lastly, district representatives can contact the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement National Office for individual support on incorporating Smarter Lunchrooms into their Wellness Policy.
*The final Wellness Policy rule in the Federal Register indicates that in drafting their Wellness Policy, the district is:
…required to review Smarter Lunchroom tools and strategies, which are evidenced-based, simple, low-cost or no-cost changes that are shown to improve student participation in the school meals program while encouraging consumption of more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and decreasing plate waste.
The following are examples of evidence-based strategies that have been shown to improve the likelihood that children will make the healthier choice: using creative names for fruits and vegetables and targeted entrees, training staff to prompt students to select fruits and vegetables, placing unflavored milk in front of other beverage choices, and bundling ‘‘grab and go’’ meals that include fruit and vegetable items. – 81 FR 50151