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August 19, 2016

On July 29, 2016, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) finalized a new set of requirements governing school wellness polices. The ruling affects all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program and must be completed by June 30, 2017.

Wellness policies are written documents drafted by individual school districts which guide their “efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn.”¹ The new regulations are intended to strengthen these goals, as well as increase transparency and accountability.

According to the USDA’s summary of the ruling, the revised wellness policies must include:

  • Specific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other schoolbased activities that promote student wellness. [Local educational agencies] are required to review and consider evidence-based strategies in determining these goals.
  • Standards and nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages sold to students on the school campus during the school day that are consistent with Federal regulations for:
    • School meal nutrition standards, and the
    • Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Standards for all foods and beverages provided, but not sold, to students during the school day (e.g., in classroom parties, classroom snacks brought by parents, or other foods given as incentives).
  • Policies for food and beverage marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only those foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Description of public involvement, public updates, policy leadership, and evaluation plan.

Schools will be assessed by state agencies every three years to check for compliance. You can view the USDA’s ruling in its entirety here.

¹ United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Science. (2016). Local School Wellness Policy Implementation Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: Summary of the Final Rule. Retrieved from