An Examination of Local School Wellness Policies in Virginia
Golliher, Steven Michael
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In response to the dramatic increase in the prevalence of childhood overweight, a provision of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required school divisions participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to adopt local school wellness policies (LWP) by the fall of 2006. The local school wellness policies were to include guidelines for nutrition education, physical education (PE) and physical activity, and foods offered on campus. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) compare and contrast proposed goals versus adopted policies in Virginia; and 2) analyze the rigor of LWPs in Virginia. All LWPs in Virginia were reviewed with each item scored as required or recommended and specific or broad. Chi-square analyses were used to compare policies that were proposed and adopted. Eighty-one local wellness policies were matched to goals. In general, school divisions did not adopt as many policies as proposed. LWPs met only the minimum requirements mandated. Only 56 (69.1%) had policy language for more than one category in each of the three areas studied with nutrition education policies more popular than physical education/physical activity and nutrition guidelines. For example, 60 schools adopted policies to promote classroom nutrition education, whereas no LWPs contained policy language to improve PE teacher-student ratio. Further, specificity proved to be a concern. The results suggest that while schools may be meeting the minimum requirements, the LWPs may not be promoting school health to the degree intended.
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