Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment:
Background, Results and Next Steps
The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs and the Food and Nutrition Department at Framingham State University partnered to conduct the Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment (MSWNA).
The assessment was conducted to help determine what factors enable schools to implement wellness policies and what factors act as challenges to the implementation of school wellness policies.
Massachusetts School Wellness Coaching Program
As a result of the findings from the Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment (MSWNA), the Office for Food and Nutrition at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food & Nutrition (JSI) at Framingham State University collaborated to develop the Massachusetts School Wellness Coaching Program (MSWCP). Partnering theory with evidence-based strategies for school wellness success, this model helps schools get those wellness policies off the shelf and into action!
The MSWCP provides schools and school districts technical assistance with assessment, action planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation with an emphasis on enhancing compliance with the USDA Final Rule for Local School Wellness Policy Implementation under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It is intended for schools and school districts that have an established school wellness committee and a written local school wellness policy (LSWP).
There are two tiers in the program. Districts may participate in either tier, and are selected* for participation in the appropriate tier based on:
- The components of the written local wellness policy
- The status of the school wellness committee
- The needs identified by the district in their application
Tier 1: Perfecting Policy
Goal: To assist the school wellness committee in assessing and revising their local wellness policy so that is compliant with state and federal requirements.
This tier includes:
- Two** virtual 1.5-hour coach-facilitated meetings
- Complete WellSAT 3.0 assessment of LSWP
- Local wellness policy revisions based on WellSAT 3.0 results
- Technical assistance
- Compliance review of the revised policy by the School Wellness Coach and DESE School Wellness Specialist prior to school wellness committee’s submission to school board or equivalent for adoption
Tier 2: Implementing Initiatives
Goal: To assist the school wellness committee in assessing the implementation of the local school wellness policy, and prioritize and develop wellness action plans.
This tier includes:
- Four** virtual 1-hour coach-facilitated meetings
- Complete the Massachusetts Local Wellness Policy Implementation Evaluation Form
- Identify wellness priorities
- Wellness action planning
- Monitoring and evaluation of action plans; sharing and celebrating success
- Technical assistance
*Space in the program is limited. If the school/district is not selected, DESE will identify alternative trainings and resources specific to the district’s needs based on the application submission.
**Massachusetts regulation 105 CMR 215:000: Standards for School Wellness Advisory Committees requires school wellness committees to meet at least four times per year. A school/district participating in Tier 1 will need to meet 2 additional times outside of the MSWCP to be compliant. Districts participating in Tier 2 will meet this requirement through the four MSWCP meetings.
The application window for the 2023-2024 School Year has officially closed, but DESE is still here to help! If you would like information on how to achieve compliance or advance school wellness in your district, please contact the DESE School Wellness Specialist.
Applications for the 2024-2025 School Year are anticipated to open in April 2024.
Four-Week Online Graduate Courses
Framingham State University (FSU) offers a variety of four-week online graduate courses for educators and school professionals that take place four times a year: in the fall, twice in the spring, and in the summer. All courses count for one graduate credit and provide 22.5 PDPs for teachers or 15 hrs continuing education for school nutrition professionals, RDNs and RNs.
There are a handful of courses available through FSU that focus on promoting and advancing school wellness (below). Available courses will vary by semester. Please check the Professional Development for Educators Courses & Registration page to see current course offerings, cost and to register.
An examination of the benefits and strategies for integrating food literacy education into the school day with a focus on the development of a meaningful, realistic and sustainable food literacy initiative. Food literacy is defined as the understanding of where food comes from, starting from its agricultural roots up to the process of reaching the table. Students explore where food comes from in our contemporary society. Through research, discussions, and application, students will develop a plan-of-action for implementing a food literacy initiative into their school and/or district.
An examination of school gardens as an integral part of the curriculum, school nutrition program and/or school wellness activities. Participants will explore benefits, the various types of gardens, and best practices to support a successful school garden. Emphasis will be on connecting gardening lessons to state curriculum frameworks and/or food and wellness education in the classroom, as well as establishing an action plan to implement or expand school gardening.
An overview of hydration including basic requirements and guidelines for children and adolescents, and hydration needs for student athletes. Topics addressed in the course include: the current beverage environment; common ingredients and additives; beverage guidelines for schools; and the role of beverage marketing and beverages in the school environment.
This course is for educators and specialists. Through Special Topics, participants examine mindfulness, its history, its implications for learning, how schools use it to increase students’ attention and concentration, and the vital connection between social-emotional learning and mindfulness. Participants complete all course content before the online discussions and complete one weekly assignment and a final project.
An exploration of how movement improves academic performance, classroom behavior, attention span, and the social-emotional development of students. Using evidence-based research, students explore types of physical activities for the classroom and the importance of physical education for students in grades K -12. This course includes strategies for increasing movement in schools with well-designed, effective and sustainable movement opportunities for the classroom and in broader school community.
An examination of evidence-based school wellness strategies utilizing the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model for addressing health in schools. Course is intended for teachers, nurses, administrators, wellness coordinators and school nutrition professionals. Students review federal and state school wellness policy requirements, build a school wellness team, initiate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) School Health Index, explore support mechanisms for success, and identify action steps and a plan to implement in their school.
An overview of sodium including guidelines and recommendations for children and adolescents. Topics include: role of sodium in the body, current guidelines and actual US intake; the use of sodium in the current food supply; and initiatives to reduce sodium content in the school environment. Course is intended for school nutrition professionals, teachers, administrators, and school nurses.
Designed to support the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Social Emotional Learning in Massachusetts, this course emphasizes Holistic Support and Enrichment: Strengthening Social Emotional Competencies, Health & Safety goals, and the five core strategies. Participants will learn the principles of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), its foundation, framework, and resources available to assist in the planning and implementing SEL practices in the elementary education classroom. Participants will learn to implement SEL across the curriculum, emphasizing equity and cultural responsiveness.
Within this course, you will learn the theory and principles of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) to create a Middle School teaching and learning environment that is welcoming and nurturing. You will examine your misconceptions about SEL and analyze the principles that apply to middle school students. You will also learn how to apply the principles of SEL in the classroom, giving students a sense of understanding and belonging while nurturing each learner’s individuality. Students will feel challenged and empowered socially, emotionally, and intellectually.
An overview of sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners including guidelines and recommendations for children and adolescents. Topics include: types of sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners, including information about safety; the use of these products in the current food supply; updates on food marketing to children as it relates to sugar; and efforts to reduce sugar consumption in the US and the school environment. The course is intended for school nutrition professionals, teachers, administrators, and school nurses.
An overview of diabetes and its impact in schools for teachers, school nutrition directors, school nurses and other school professionals. Topics addressed in this course include: basic understanding of type 1 and type 2 diabetes; dietary management of diabetes and basic carbohydrate counting; and strategies to create a safe environment for students with diabetes. Participants will explore available resources to promote nutrition, physical activity, and student safety.
An overview of how to prevent eating disorders in schools. Topics include: background and statistics on the four (4) diagnosable eating disorders; disordered eating signs and symptoms; the role schools can play in the prevention of eating disorders. Resources and curricula that support healthy body image and media literacy are presented along with other creative ways school staff can incorporate awareness and prevention of eating disorders in schools. The course is intended for teachers, school nurses, school psychologists, and other school professionals.
An investigation into how an employee wellness program can be implemented into school districts to reinforce the principles of your School Wellness Policy and set a healthy example for students. In this class, participants will assess the need for staff wellness programming, review successful programs already in place, and take the first steps toward creating wellness programs for the hardworking faculty, school nutrition and school staff in your school system.