New regulations for School Wellness Policies go into effect June 30, 2017
By Lauren Kelsey, School Partnership Coordinator, State Obesity Prevention Program
Healthy students learn better. Multiple studies show that school districts can achieve better overall test scores, grades, and attendance rates by helping students stay healthy through eating nutritious foods and being physically active.
One of the best ways to improve the health of your students is helping your school district pass and implement a strong school wellness policy. Evidence of the importance of a strong school wellness policy (also known as a student nutrition and physical activity policy) is so clear that the federal government has mandated that every school district receiving funds for school breakfast or lunch have one.
Now is the time to help Alaska schools update their wellness policies
While most districts have a school wellness policy in place, the summer of 2016 brought new state and federal regulations that mean most Alaska districts need to update their wellness policy. Alaska’s Physical Activity in Schools Law (click here for full text and more information) was signed July 2016 and went into effect October 16, 2016. All students in grades K-8 in Alaska schools must be provided opportunities for nearly an hour of physical activity during each full school day.
As of July 2016, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires districts to report on wellness policy implementation, and to involve the community in developing and updating these policies. Starting in 2014, the USDA Smart Snacks nutrition standards specifically require that snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and fundraising efforts during the school day are nutritious and promote health. The USDA also now restricts marketing and advertising on school grounds using the same standards. If a food or beverage does not meet the Smart Snacks standards, it cannot be marketed or advertised at school. You can test your knowledge on changes to the USDA wellness policy guidelines with this 6 question short quiz.
Putting Policy into Action
School districts across Alaska are already doing great work putting their wellness policies into action. A few of the successes of Alaska school districts are highlighted in the Play Every Day blog posts below:
- School store makeover: Mat-Su schools serve Smart Snacks
- Petersburg school celebrates birthdays with books instead of treats
- North Slope schools follow new state law increasing physical activity to improve health, academic performance
- District greenhouse puts fresh produce into Alaska Gateway Schools
- Seward School makes PE a daily priority
You can get involved to make your district a success story too. Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program, in concert with the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Child Nutrition Program, has developed a Gold Standard School Wellness policy that meets all state and federal requirements. A similar update to AASB’s model wellness policy (BP 5040 ‘Student Nutrition and Physical Activity’) was shared with subscribing districts in early April. Check out this site for more information about Alaska School Wellness policies and Be a School Wellness Champion.
For more information about school wellness policies, contact Lauren Kelsey, Obesity Prevention School Partnership Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.