Research Products: National Wellness Policy Study

USDA logo used with permission.Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD, and colleagues have conducted the largest, ongoing study of school district wellness policies since the federal government began requiring them in the 2006–2007 school year.


The researchers collect, analyze and track school wellness policies and their implementation in elementary schools with a nationally representative sample of more than 960 school districts in 45 states along with the state laws that pertain to them. This research was begun with support by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Bridging the Gap research program, from 2006 to 2016.

National Wellness Policy StudyUnder a federal cooperative agreement, Dr. Chriqui is now examining the implementation of school wellness laws and related policies on schools and students nationwide, from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective, in collaboration with:

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has provided additional funds for this study since 2014.

The following research briefs and reports on key informant interviews (all in PDF format) were developed under this cooperative agreement. This page is updated regularly as new study documents become available.

EVALUATION OF POLICIES NATIONWIDE

New! Working on Wellness: How Aligned are District Wellness Policies with the Soon-To-Be-Implemented Federal Wellness Policy Requirements? Nationwide Baseline Information from the 2014-15 School Year

This report provides data on district wellness policies in effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year, including: insights as to district policy readiness for or alignment with the provisions of the USDA’s wellness policy final rule given the forthcoming implementation date (SY 2017-18); baseline information that tracks the incorporation of Smart Snacks standards into district wellness policies during the first year of implementation (SY 2014-15); and an assessment of the scope and intensity of wellness policy provisions in district policies within and across all topic areas and by selected district characteristics.

Cover of state report 2006-2014New! Active Role States Have Played in Helping to Transform the School Wellness Environment through Policy 

This report provides historical data on state wellness policy-related laws (SY 2006-07 through 2014-15), baseline information on state laws related to the first year of Smart Snacks regulation (SY 2014-15), and insights as to how state laws align with the provisions of the USDA’s wellness policy final rule given the forthcoming implementation date (SY 2017-18). In addition, an assessment of the scope and intensity of requirements included in state laws governing the local wellness policy environment for all years, across all topic areas, and by selected state characteristics is included.

School District Wellness Policies: Evaluating Progress and Potential for Improving Children’s Health Eight Years after the Federal MandateSchool District Wellness Policies: Evaluating Progress and Potential for Improving Children’s Health Eight Years after the Federal Mandate

This report provides the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the content of written school district wellness policies from school years 2006–2007 through 2013–2014, the first eight years following the required implementation date for the federal mandate. Using a nationally representative sample of school districts, this report, published in June 2016, details the characteristics of these districts as well as the individual components of wellness policies and related provisions.

Photo by USDAgov via Flickr. FOOD SERVICE DIRECTORS' VIEWS

Speaking from Experience: Food Service Directors’ Perspectives and Lessons From Implementing the Revised School Meal Standards

This brief summarizes the findings of the Food Servce Directors' Key Informants Report with a special focus on "lessons learned" by food service directors during their experiences with implementing the updated Nutrition Standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

What Works? Strategies Used by Food Service Directors to Implement the Revised School Meal Standards

This brief summarizes the findings of the Food Service Directors' Key Informants Report with a special focus on key strategies used by food service directors’ during the implementation of the updated Nutrition Standards for School Meals. The strategies are directed to food service directors who are still working to increase student acceptance of revised meal standard reform.

Food Service Director Experiences Implementing Revised School Meal Standards: Summary of Findings

This Summary of Findings Report presents the results of a qualitative study that explored school food service directors’ experiences with implementing the updated Nutrition Standards for School Meals. The report outlines the wide range of creative strategies employed by food service directors, as well as their proactive engagement with students and the broader school community.

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS' VIEWS

Student reaches for a food serving in high school cafeteria. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols. www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/6283061566Students’ Experiences and Perspectives on Revised School Meal and Smart Snacks Standards Reform

This Summary of Findings Report presents the results of a qualitative study that explored high school students' experiences with implementing the updated Nutrition Standards for School Meals. High school students were affiliated with a social justice organization, Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO). The report outlines students' recommendations for fostering healthy school food environments.

Students’ Insights on School Meal Reform

This brief summarizes the findings of the High School Students' Summary of Findings Report with a special focus on their perspectives and experiences during implementation of the updated Nutrition Standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Student Recommendations for Improving the School Food Environment

This brief summarizes the findings from the High School Students' Summary of Findings Report with a special focus on recommendations for improving the school food environment that emerged out of students' experiences with the updated Nutrition Standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The recommendations are directed to schools that are continuing to work on creating healthier school food environments, and the organizations that support them.

NUTRITION EDUCATION

Another Partner in the Classroom: The Role of Nutrition Education in the Implementation of School Nutrition Policies

This poster presentation combines findings from qualitative key informant interviews and focus groups to highlight how nutrition education was perceived as an important component of updated nutrition standards implementation. Food Service Directors and high school students from across the nation identify ways in which nutrition education was and should be included in implementation processes. 

Plate of chocolate chip cookies. Image courtesy Microsoft.SMART SNACKS EXEMPTIONS

State Policies on Smart Snacks Fundraiser Exemption

This state-by-state chart tracks fundraiser exemption policies that allow for a certain number of infrequent school fundraisers that do not have to meet the federal requirements of the “Smart Snacks” competitive food rule. The chart is updated quarterly.