Local Wellness Policy

Kids smiling while eating

Overview

Wellness plays an essential role to academic success, cognitive performance, and classroom behaviors. In Massachusetts, schools have already established top practices in wellness. According to the Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment (MSWNA), 82 percent of survey participants indicated that their district has a wellness committee that addresses healthy eating and physical activity in schools.1 Investing in school wellness and creating a culture of health will help students thrive both in the classroom and their community. 
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What is a Local Wellness Policy?

A Local Wellness Policy (LWP) is a written document that helps a school district establish an environment that prioritizes student health, well-being and ability to learn.2 A Local Educational Agency (LEA) enrolled in the National School Lunch Program and/or National School Breakfast Program is required by law to have a Local Wellness Policy.2 For schools that do not participate in these programs, the resources outlined in this section from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can still be utilized for best practices. 

Wellness Policy Timeline

Check out the timeline below to see how the Local Wellness Policy has progressed:
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Wellness Policy Requirement
The Wellness Policy requirement established by Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthoization Act.
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Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
Requires LEAs participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to develop a wellness policy.
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MA Legislation Passed An Act Relative to School Nutrition
This required the establishment of School Wellness Advisory Committees. The committees should be open to all school wellness stakeholders, including the general public.
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USDA Final Rule
All LEAs are required to develop a stronger LWP with additional requirements and increase transparency by June 30, 2017.

More Information on Wellness Policies

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or the National School Breakfast Program are required to develop a Local Wellness Policy which includes specific goals, language on public involvement, policy assessment and implementation. To learn more about the requirements of the Local Wellness Policy, view the checklist below. 

Local Wellness Policy Checklist:

Checklist Item #1: Include specific goals on the following topics:

  • Nutrition Promotion and Nutrition Education: Goals can include, but are not limited to, staff modeling healthy eating behaviors, how frequently grades K-12 receive nutrition education lessons.  
  • Physical Activity: Goals can include, but are not limited to, recess, movement breaks, physical activity. 
  • “Other” School-Based Wellness Activities: Goals can include, but not limited to, language on social emotional learning, mental health, drugs/alcohol policies. 

Checklist Item #2: Include nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages sold and provided to students on campus during the school day.

  • Foods and Beverages Sold: Include those that are part of the School Meal Nutrition Standards and Competitive Foods and Beverages. To learn more about Competitive Foods and Beverages in Massachusetts, Check out the “At a Glance” Chart. 
  • Food and Beverages Provided: Include classroom parties, snacks brought into the classroom by parents (if your district allows this) and food offered as an incentive. Examples of food being offered as an incentive: academic performance, attendance, and behavior.

Checklist Item #3: Include Policies for Food and Beverage Marketing

  • Identify the foods and beverages that can be promoted and advertised during the school day. If only foods and beverages that meet the school nutrition standards are allowed, clearly state that in the policy.

Checklist Item #4: Inform the Public

  • The Final Rule led to increased transparency in wellness policies. The policy, committee meeting information (dates, meeting minutes) and plans for updating the policy must all be made available to the public. 

To learn more about the Local Wellness Policy, check out the resources below from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): 

A school wellness committee is a group comprised of parents, teachers, school staff, students, and/or the community. The group focuses on both the health and well-being of everyone in schools and the community. The wellness committee is also responsible for assessing the wellness policy, monitoring goals, and setting action items. 

In Massachusetts, the wellness committee must meet at least 4 times per year (or quarterly) and meeting minutes or an agenda must be made available to the public. The committee should also provide annual updates to both the superintendent and the school committee on goals and objectives for the upcoming year.

A dedicated, multidisciplinary wellness committee is vital to school wellness success. To learn more about building a wellness committee, check out the USDA Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit

At least every three years, the wellness committee is required to complete an assessment of the LWP to determine compliance, alignment with model policies, and progress towards goals. During an administrative review, districts must provide documentation on the most recent assessment of implementation of the local wellness policy. This assessment must also be made available to the public. 

How to assess a Local Wellness Policy:

The WellSAT is a free, online tool used to assess local wellness policies. The WellSAT is comprised of two different assessments: 

The WellSAT 3.0 is used to score local wellness policy language based on federal regulations.  

The WellSAT-I is used to measure the implementation of the wellness policy, or, how your district is putting policy into action. This assessment should be completed after the WellSAT 3.0. 

The Final Rule states that all districts must provide documentation and information to state agencies on the Local Wellness Policy. In Massachusetts, this information is collected during an Administrative Review (AR). 

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, as amended by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), requires an accountability process. This ensures that participating School Food Authorities (SFA’s) comply with school nutrition program requirements.3 The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) conducts an Administrative Review to assess an SFA’s administration of:

  • National School Lunch Program
  • School Breakfast Program 
  • All other Child Nutrition Programs 

To prepare for the Administrative Review, school districts must provide:

  • A copy or appropriate web address of the current Local School Wellness Policy. The minimum requirements should be written into the policy. 
  • Documentation to show that the policy is made available to the public. This can be a web address.
  • Documentation to show when and how the review and update of the Local School Wellness Policy occurs. 
  • Information on who is involved in reviewing and updating the Local School Wellness Policy. 
  • Documentation on how potential stakeholders are made aware of their ability to participate in the development, review, update, and implementation of the Local School Wellness Policy. 
  • A copy of the most recent assessment on the implementation of the Local School Wellness Policy. 
  • Documentation on how the public is made aware of the results of the most recent assessment on the implementation of the Local School Wellness Policy.  
  1. Wickham CA, Crosier M, Lehnerd M, McGrail K, Courney D, Good N. School wellness – it’s everyone’s job! Findings from the Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment. J Child Nutr Manag. 2020;44(2).
  2. US Department of Agriculture. Local school wellness policy implementation under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: Summary of the Final Rule. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/LWPsummary_finalrule.pdf. Published July 2016. Accessed April 9, 2021.
  3. Administrative Review Process. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs. https://www.doe.mass.edu/cnp/nprograms/nslp/admin-review-process.html. Published September 21, 2020.