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J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Sep;108(9):1497-502. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.06.429.

Statewide assessment of local wellness policies in Pennsylvania public school districts.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, Penn State University, 5 Henderson Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


With the passage of the Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children Reauthorization Act of 2004, schools that sponsor school meals programs are required to establish local wellness policies to address childhood obesity. Little is known about how school districts will respond to this mandate, the nature of local wellness policies, and their compliance with this mandate. The objectives of this cross-sectional descriptive study, conducted in early 2007, were to assess local wellness policies established by Pennsylvania public school districts, compare these policies to local wellness policy mandate requirements, and provide information about local wellness policy development and implementation. Local wellness policies were collected from all Pennsylvania public school districts that sponsor school meals programs (N=499). School district representatives also completed and submitted a local wellness policy checklist, providing information about local wellness policy development and implementation. Policy goal data were abstracted and entered into a Microsoft Access database along with local wellness policy data. Frequencies were calculated. All required public school districts (N=499) submitted local wellness policies. Most school district local wellness policies (85.6%-100%) met each mandate requirement (eg, included goals for nutrition education, physical activity, etc.). The most common policy goals were general and may be difficult to measure, suggesting school staff may need assistance developing action plans and measuring policy implementation. Most respondents identified the superintendent (n=377; 75.6%) and school foodservice director (n=301; 60.3%) as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation. Questions remain about feasibility of these district-level personnel to ensure policy implementation at the school level. The ability of local wellness policies to impact childhood obesity will depend on efforts at both the school and district levels to implement and enforce local wellness policies.

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