Results of Evaluability Assessments of Local Wellness Policies in 6 US School Districts

An assessment of the implementation of six school districts’ local wellness policies (LWPs) to determine whether they were ready for evaluation found that the LWPs had been only partially implemented and had improved the quality of foods available in schools, but not opportunities for physical activity.

A 2004 federal mandate required school districts with federally-funded meal programs to institute LWPs by 2007. The authors reviewed six districts’ policies and conducted site visits and interviews with school and community representatives about the content, implementation and evaluation of their district’s LWP.

None of the LWPs assessed had been fully implemented at the time of this study. All six LWPs included guidance about available foods at school, physical activity opportunities at school and school-based activities to encourage improved nutrition and physical activity. In all LWPs, guidance for nutrition was far more specific than for physical activity, and all lacked regular nutrition education and offered only limited opportunities for physical activity.

The LWPs assessed were consistent with federal requirements. However, this study found that creating and adopting an LWP does not lead to its full implementation. The authors recommend that school districts provide financial and programmatic support for LWPs; use coordinated implementation strategies; and systematically evaluate their implementations.