School Wellness Learning Forum
Your School Wellness Policy: The Next Step
Download a PDF of these proceedings: Partnership School Wellness Committees Learning Forum
Anne Sheetz, Director, School Health Services, MA Department of Public Health
State Standards for School Wellness Advisory Committees were passed last Spring. To download a PDF of the regulations, click here: 105 CMR 215. The following is a summary of the regulations.
The purpose of the regulations is to set standards for the establishment and operation of School Wellness Advisory Committees. These committees are intended to ensure that each public school district has an established group of school staff and concerned community representatives to recommend, review, and help implement school district policies addressing school nutrition, nutrition education, physical activity, and related issues that affect student health. Although the regulations are part of the nutrition law, an additional regulation is included for committees to review health and behavioral health services.
The regulations apply to all public school districts, regional school districts, vocational technical schools, collaboratives, and charter schools. A regional committee may be established as long as it covers all schools in the district and includes representatives from all communities.
Superintendents appoint committee members and may remove anyone who does not participate. The committee should include a wide range of school health and community health-related representatives such as school nurses, nutrition specialists, physical activity staff, parents, students, the school committee, and community agencies such as youth development agencies, the local board of health. and healthcare providers such as hospitals and primary care providers. Committee membership should reflect the cultural and ethnic composition of the community. (See Carol Goodenow's presentation below for more information on committee composition.)
Committees must meet at least four times a year. Committee reports including minutes of meetings must be maintained. Committees must review and recommend district-wide policies and submit action plans to superintendents and school committees annually including observable and measureable goals and objectives for the next year as well as an evaluation process for assessment of accomplishments.
Carol Goodenow, Director, Coordinated School Health, MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
The Federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 goes into effect in August 2012.
For a summary of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, click here:
For a brief fact sheet on the 2012 Reauthorization, click here:
The Act requires that districts update their school wellness policies and includes new objectives on nutrition promotion and more communication. The HHFKA website includes links to implementation actions and timeframes, resources, and school programs. Click here for their website: USDA - HHFKA.
In Massachusetts wellness committee must be in place by August 2012. The members should be identified and meet to evaluate what is already in place and what needs to be done; the Fall agenda should be outlined. Many schools already have an appropriate committee. The names of the committees may vary, such as Health Advisory Committee, Health and Safety, etc. One committee may serve an entire district.
Superintendents appoint committee members. Members should include:
Committees must review data on students' health such as BMI screening data and data on the status of current school health policies, programs, and practices, and must create and implement action plans for the next year. Action plans must address nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. Committees should report to their superintendents and school committees at least annually on what has been accomplished and what is still needed.
Every school and district with reimbursable meals will be reviewed by the State every three years. This includes reviewing the wellness policy and asking for any corrective actions needed.
School Wellness Advisory Committees fall must comply with the Open Meeting Law. Click for related documents:
Billerica's Health and Wellness Advisory Committee includes:
This committee meets monthly following an agenda that flows from the prior month's agenda considering what has gone on during the month. At first they focused on how schools were adhering to policy and how they could be better served; the program has expanded to include staff wellness. Recognizing that teachers are on the "front lines" with students, a subcommittee created a one-page document for teachers to simplify what they should do in classrooms.
Billerica's initiatives include the following:
Schools are increasingly dealing with food allergy issues; for example, Oak Ridge is a nut-free school now. To be pro-active rather than reactive, wellness committees should look at all food issues. In Sandwich the wellness committee meets at least once a month, keeping people highly invested. It is well established and is now doing grant writing.
Helpful suggestions given were:
Effective wellness committees require administrative as well as parent and community support. Different strategies are needed for community outreach. Establishing an effective school wellness committee and implementing initiatives are community-building activities.
While new regulations have increased expectations on schools, Federal and State government support is necessary for implementation. That being said, it is disappointing that health education for K-8 is not included in the regulations.
Prevention is increasingly being recognized as important, especially for obesity and substance abuse issues.
Curricula including mapping to language arts, math, science, and social studies can be found on these websites:
Mapping is effective for sharing responsibility, but teachers in other disciplines are not likely to teach skills in making healthy choices or help students make dietary plans that they can follow and gets them to eating well. Teachers usually have to focus on the MCAS issues.
The nutrition standards affect 30 minutes before and after the school day including fundraising activities. Standards do not apply during evening hours and weekends, even for activities on school property. However, schools are encouraged to use non-food-based fundraisers and to offer healthy options at events such as sports, which will improve health as well as help create a consistent message about health.
Generally older students are most reluctant. If policy changes and implementation are consistent, younger students will grow up knowing nothing else. This is a good opportunity to create healthy school environments and have a significant impact on childhood obesity.
Suggestions to improve school nutrition other than meal planning were:
Even schools with healthy policies have trouble getting the word out and getting adherence. Suggestions for getting greater participation in the planning process and implementation were:
A considerable challenge is the fact that sales of non-healthy foods have generated large amounts of revenue in the past. Developing non-food fundraising success takes time but will be beneficial.