Local Wellness Policy: How to Get Started

As described by Action for Healthy Kids’ Wellness Policy Fundamentals, at a minimum, a LWP must

  • Include goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity and other school-based activities that promote student wellness
  • Include nutrition guidelines to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity for all foods available in each school district
  • Permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators and the general public to participate in the development, implementation, review and update of the LWP
  • Inform and update the public (including parents, students and others in the community) about the content and implementation of LWP
  • Be measured periodically on the extent to which schools are in compliance with the LWP, the extent to which the LEA’s LWP compares to model policies, and the progress made in attaining the goals of the LWP, and make this assessment available to the public.

USDA has provided step by step guidance for creating policy that supports the school nutrition environment and wellness. This Web site is dedicated to helping local educational agencies find the resources they need to be in compliance with USDA guidelines. 


You are encouraged to assess and gather information on your current school health environment to determine what changes are needed.  Several assessment tools have been developed and are available to assist you in this process.

Be sure to understand that there is a difference between assessing your school environment and evaluating your wellness policy. 

  • You assess your schools prior to developing a LWP.  This will help you to better determine what changes are needed.
  • Once your LWP has been implemented, you evaluate your policy to see if it is effective.

The following assessment tools are available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) School Health Index

The School Health Index (SHI): Self-Assessment & Planning Guide is a self-assessment and planning tool that schools can use to improve their health and safety policies and programs.   It’s easy to use and completely confidential.


United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Changing the Scene

USDA’s Changing the Scene – Improving the School Nutrition Environment is a tool kit that addresses the entire school nutrition environment from a commitment to nutrition and physical activity, pleasant eating experiences, quality school meals, other healthy food options, nutrition education and marketing the issue to the public. 


Action for Healthy Kids School Assessment Tool

Action for Healthy Kids is committed to working with schools to help kids learn to eat right and be active every day so they’re ready to learn. They provide access to nutrition and physical activity programs for before, during and after school, and their volunteers are available to help schools implement and measure the success of wellness programs.


Areas for Focus

When developing your LWP, consider the following recommendations for goals in these areas.

Nutrition Education

This is the classroom approach which would include nutrition in health education and physical education curriculum. It is also recommended to integrate nutrition education into other academic areas, such as

  • Math
  • Science
  • English
  • Social Studies

Nutrition Promotion

Consider this goal as the promotion of proper nutrition practices on the school campus. This could include

  • menu items
  • labeling of foods
  • posters
  • promotional incentives
  • a general atmosphere of healthy eating.

Physical Activity

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that per week, for the length of the school year, schools provide

  • 150 minutes of instructional physical education for elementary school students
  • 225 minutes for middle and high school students

A quality physical education program provides learning opportunities, appropriate instruction, meaningful and challenging content and student and program assessment.   NASPE’s guidelines for physical activity are as follows:

  • Guideline 1: Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of age-appropriate physical activity on all, or most days of the week. This daily accumulation should include moderate and vigorous physical activity with the majority of the time being spent in activity that is intermittent in nature.
  • Guideline 2: Children should participate in several bouts of physical activity lasting 15 minutes or more each day.
  • Guideline 3: Children should participate each day in a variety of age-appropriate physical activities designed to achieve optimal health, wellness, fitness, and performance benefits.
  • Guideline 4: Extended periods (periods of two hours or more) of inactivity are discouraged for children, especially during the daytime hours.

Evaluating Your Local Wellness Policy

As previously discussed, evaluation refers to the checks and balances put in place by an LEA to measure the effectiveness of their LWP after it has been implemented.  It is required by law that each LEA must establish a plan for evaluating their LWP.  Schools may determine the tool and method for measurement.  Below are tools for assisting in this process.