The strength of school wellness policies: One state's experience

Julie Metos, Marilyn S. Nanney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Background This study examines the results of federal legislation on the content and quality of policies written in 2005-2006 by Utah school districts (n = 30). Methods Policies were gathered by phone call requests to school districts or obtained on district Web pages. Content was compared to requirements outlined in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNRA) of 2004 and recommendations made by a state coalition of health and education agencies. The strength of the language was assessed (mandate vs recommendation), and characteristics of school districts that adopted strong policies were identified. Results The majority of Utah school districts (78%) complied with the federal guidelines, and a variety of state recommended nutrition and physical activity policy statements were included. The strength of the language used in the policies revealed that districts were more likely to mandate items already required by other entities or well established in the district. School districts with high participation in free- and reduced-price programs had significantly more mandatory policies (mean = 9.2) versus low (mean = 7.1) and medium enrollment (mean = 4.7). Urban school districts were more likely to indicate mandatory competitive food policies than rural and suburban (mean = 2.3 vs 0.93, 0.83). There were no differences in policy language between school districts based on race or size. Conclusions Compliance with the CNRA may be a positive step toward improving the school nutrition and physical activity environment, but it does not ensure a comprehensive or powerful policy. Schools and community partners must continue to work together to strengthen wellness policies and programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-372
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Childhood obesity
  • School health
  • School wellness
  • Wellness policy


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