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School Wellness


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Regulation and Compliance Tools

A local school wellness policy is a written document that guides a local education agency or school district's efforts to establish a school environment that promotes student health, well-being and ability to learn.

Use the resources below to review and update your wellness policy and ensure it meets all requirements.

Nutrition Education and Promotion

Schools will provide nutrition education and engage in nutrition promotion that help students develop lifelong healthy eating behaviors. Best practice ideas include:

  • Display a MyPlate poster in every classroom.
  • Teachers review school lunch menu each morning and discuss food groups.
  • Invite a Registered Dietitian or other health professional to present nutrition information to students.
  • Partner with curriculum director, family consumer science teachers, and PE teachers to incorporate nutrition education.

Resources to Support Nutrition Education and Promotion at Your School:

Physical Activity

Schools will provide students and staff with age and grade appropriate opportunities to engage in physical activity that meet federal and state guidelines, including the Iowa Healthy Kids Act. Best practice ideas include:

  • Provide access to the gym and exercise equipment before and after school.
  • Educate teachers and administrators the academic benefits of physical activity.
  • Demonstrate brain breaks during staff meetings to encourage teachers to use them their classrooms.
  • Discourage withholding recess as a punishment.

Resources to Support Physical Activity at Your School:

Other School Based Activities

Other school based activities that promote wellness can ensure an integrated whole-school approach to the school's wellness program. Best practice examples include:

  • Create a wellness page on the school website that contains non-food celebration or reward ideas, school meal information, the wellness policy and the assessment of implementation.
  • Involve high school students in organizing special events such as school-wide walks/runs or taste testing new food items in elementary schools.
  • Permit students to bring and carry water bottles filled with water throughout the day.
  • Apply for USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge: Smarter Lunchroom Award, a certification initiative that recognizes schools for nutrition and physical activity excellence.

Resources to Support Other School Based Activities that Promote Wellness

5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! - Statewide campaign coordinated by the Iowa Department of Public Health in partnership with the Healthiest State Initiative and United Way of Central Iowa. 5-2-1-0 provides a framework to create healthy environments for kids and to teach kids how to make healthy choices. It is based on a nationally recognized model that provides evidence-based strategies and hands-on support at places where kids spend a lot of time.
Making Healthy Choices Count at Schools - DE Headline Article

Nutrition Guidelines

Nutrition Guidelines for All Foods and Beverages Sold to Students

Schools providing access to foods outside reimbursable meal programs must meet the USDA Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition standards, at a minimum. This includes items sold through a la carte, vending machines, student run stores, and fundraising activities (before school, during school and 30 minutes after). Best practice examples include:

  • Work with middle or high school classes or student groups to evaluate foods and beverages sold using the Smart Snacks calculator.
  • Educate administrators and teachers on Smart Snacks requirements.
  • Partner with school groups to sell foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks requirements.
  • Connect with food vendors to ensure they are aware of the requirements.

Resources to Support Nutrition Guidelines

  • School Meal Planning and Resources - Tools, trainings, and communication templates to assist with implementation of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.
  • Iowa Smart Snacks Webpage - Smart Snacks calculator, resources for school nutrition to work with other school groups, and Smart Snacks approved recipes.  

Standards for All Foods and Beverages Provided (not sold) to Students

Foods and beverages provided (not sold) to students during the school day (e.g. class parties, rewards) must meet standards set by the district. Non-food fundraising, classroom rewards and classroom celebrations should complement the school wellness policy to provide consistent messages about health and wellness throughout the school. Best practice examples include:

  • Schools may set standards related to food safety or medical needs (i.e. allergies), best practice is that nutrition is also a consideration.
  • Provide parents and staff a list of foods and beverages that meet nutrition standards for classroom snacks and celebrations.
  • Provide ideas to teachers and staff for non-food rewards and celebrations ideas.

Resources to Support Nutrition Standards

Food and Beverage Marketing

Schools must only allow marketing and advertising of foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks nutrition standards on campus during the school day. Best practice examples include:

  • Provide training to staff on food and beverage marketing requirements.
  • Ensure food vendors are aware of the district's marketing policy.
  • Display posters and bulletin boards promoting healthy foods.
  • Include healthy messages and school meal menus on electronic monitors.

Resources to Support Healthy Food and Beverage Marketing

Wellness Leadership and Public Involvement

The superintendent or designee must implement and ensure compliance by reviewing the policy at least every 3 years and recommending updates as appropriate for board approval. Schools must permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, physical education teachers, school health professionals, school board, administrators and the public to participate in the development, implementation, and review and update of the policy. Best practice examples include:

  • Schedule the wellness committee meeting to take place with another school group meeting (i.e. School Improvement Advisory Committee).
  • Delegate a wellness leader for each school building.
  • E-mail parents about upcoming wellness committee meetings.
  • Make the policy and assessment of the policy's progress available to the public by putting it on the school's wellness webpage.

Resources to Support Wellness Policy Committee and Public Involvement

Additional Resources


  • School Wellness Beyond the Cafeteria - Learn about strategies and actions that schools can take to create a healthy environment that reaches beyond the cafeteria and engages the community. 

  • School Wellness Policy Update - provides an overview of USDA Local Wellness Policy Final Rule, Iowa Association of School Boards Sample Wellness Policy, Child Nutrition Administrative Review School Wellness Questions, and School Wellness Policy Resources. Presentation Slides

Healthy Schools - Healthy Students: Stay Connected!

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 21, 2018 at 6:10am.