Research Finds Lack of Funding and Competing Priorities Affect Schools' Ability to Offer Healthy Food and Fitness to Students

Formative research for disseminating California's student wellness policies

From 2005 to 2008, staff at the California School Boards Association and California Project LEAN (Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition) supported efforts by key stakeholders nationwide to develop, implement and evaluate school wellness policies. Such policies are federally mandated plans created by each school district to show how it will encourage healthy eating and physical fitness among its students.

The project partners—leaders in spurring districts to develop school wellness policies—conducted research on the efforts of groups of stakeholders to create and implement such policies; produced and disseminated an overall report on the findings, a report targeted to each stakeholder group and a policy brief; conducted two webinars (online training); and provided technical assistance to stakeholders around the country.

Key Findings

  • Project staff reported the following findings from online surveys; focus groups; and interviews with school board members, leaders of state associations of school boards, state directors of nutrition and school wellness advocates in School Wellness Policy Development, Implementation, and Evaluation:

    • Respondents in all four groups regarded the federal mandate on school wellness policies as valuable and were optimistic that such policies would encourage healthy eating and greater physical activity among youth.
    • Respondents in all four groups identified the following as the most significant barriers to effective school wellness policies:
      • Inadequate funding, such as for staff and facilities, to implement and monitor a policy.
      • Competing priorities and lack of time.
      • Lack of support from students, parents and the community.
      • A need for tools and training.