Schools, Families, & Communities > Wellness Policies

School Wellness Policies: A Policy Brief

Tools for Evaluating School Wellness Policies

  • WellSAT is an online tool for evaluating the quality of school wellness policies. It is the abbreviated version of the 96-item School Wellness Policy Evaluation Tool described below. 

Learn More About the Development of Tools for Evaluating School Wellness Policies

The Connecticut version of the Coding Tool was adapted from the Comprehensive Coding System to Measure the Quality of School Wellness Policies developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program. The working group responsible for the coding system includes Marlene Schwartz (Connecticut), Anne Lund and Mollie Greves (Washington), Elaine McDonnell and Claudia Probart (Pennsylvania), and Anne Samuelson and Leslie Lytle (Minnesota).

In 2006, all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program were required to develop a written School Wellness Policy according to the 2004 WIC Reauthorization Act. This instrument was designed to be a common and reliable method for abstracting and evaluating school wellness policies within and across states.

The coding of Connecticut school wellness policies was done at Yale University by Jennifer Falbe, MPH; Kathryn Henderson, PhD; Michael Long; Sarah Novak, PhD; Meghan O’Connell, MPH; Marlene Schwartz, PhD; and Christopher Wharton, PhD.

Statewide Data Summaries of Connecticut School Wellness Policies

The Data Summaries provide information on the statewide results of the School Wellness Policy Report for each of the seven policy categories. They include data on the percent of districts with strong, weak and no statements for each policy item and provide average state scores. They also address the impact of District Reference Group and healthy food certification on district scores.

  1. Overview
  2. Nutrition Education
  3. School Meals
  4. Other School Foods and Beverages
  5. Physical Education
  6. Physical Activity
  7. Communication & Prevention
  8. Evaluation

Do Wellness Policies Work?

Does a good wellness policy, or any wellness policy, make for a healthier school environment? Researchers at the Rudd Center have set out to test this question. Deputy Director Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, recently reported at the Healthy Eating Research Conference in Minneapolis, Minn., that preliminary data indicate that school wellness policies led to significant improvements in the nutritional quality of competitive foods sold in Connecticut. In addition, schools that participated in the state-funded Healthy Food Certification Program showed even greater improvement. This suggests that school wellness policies help districts to move in the right direction, but that state-wide programs with financial backing are even more effective in improving school nutrition. 

History & Definition

In passing the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants and Children program) Reauthorization Act of 2004, Congress mandated that all school districts participating in federal school meal programs create and implement school wellness policies by July 2006. These policies must address nutrition education, nutrition standards for foods sold, and physical activity, and must include measures for evaluating the policy’s effectiveness.

In 2010 the Healthy, Huger-Free Kids Act of 2010 set new standards for the implementation, content, evaluation, and public reporting of school wellness policies. These are outlined in a proposed rule published on February 26, 2014 in the federal register. The proposed rule requires:

  • Public involvement in the development of wellness policies, including established leadership over the policy and a space for public participation in the process
  • The content of the policy must include: specific goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages, policies regarding food and beverage marketing
  • Annual Progress Reports, Triennial Assessments, a process for updating the wellness policies, Public Updates for all reports, and monitoring and oversight of the policy.

For more information about the proposed rule, visit the USDA website at:

The following resources regarding school wellness policies are available online: