New System Reveals Whether School Wellness Policies 'Make The Grade'
The Child Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all local education agencies nationwide participating in the National School Lunch Program to create a school wellness policy by the 2006-2007 school year. Early assessments suggest these policies range from strong and specific to weak and vague, but until now no quantitative method existed to measure their effectiveness.
"School wellness policies can offer a valuable framework for school districts seeking to make health, nutrition and physical activity a priority, as long as they are comprehensive and strong in the guidelines they set out," said lead author Marlene Schwartz, PhD, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "This coding system is a reliable and valid measure of the quality of wellness policies."
The Yale team's coding system is based on a 96-category tool developed to evaluate seven goal areas: nutrition education, standards for USDA child nutrition programs and school meals, nutrition standards for competitive and other foods and beverages, physical education, physical activity, communications and promotion and evaluation.
"The school wellness coding system will have a huge impact on public policy and the ability to move healthier school policies forward," said Lucy Nolan of End Hunger Connecticut! She added, "We've too often had to move policy on faith, and this will show that there is a means to an end."
Schools will be evaluated on, among other things, whether goals for nutrition education are designed to promote student wellness; nutrition curriculum is provided for each grade level; the school coordinates nutrition education with the larger community; nutrition education extends beyond the school environment; and whether nutrition is integrated into other subjects beyond health education.
Other authors are Anne E. Lund, R.D., M.P.H. and H. Mollie Grow, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington, Elaine McDonnell, M.S., R.D. and Claudia Probart, Ph.D., R.D., of Penn State University, and Anne Samuelson, M.P.H. and Leslie Lytle, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Minnesota.
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