Sharpen the Wellness Policy in your School

Frequently Asked Questions

What's New?

The following chart compares the old wellness policy requirements with new guidelines and expectations for school wellness policies Click to open answer

Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs

This document provides questions and answers about new requirements for the SLP and SBP for Program Operators. Click to open answer

Are soda machines allowed in teachers' rooms?

While there is no federal or Massachusetts state law that prohibits soda machines in faculty areas, we encourage districts to include this as part of their wellness policies. In order to support students in making healthy choices it is important that teachers and school staff model healthy behaviors. Click to open answer

Do a la carte entrées need to have fewer than 200 calories?

No. The 200 calorie "rule" refers to the number of calories per food item. The calorie count of entrée items can be the equivalent to the portion size offered as a part of the NSLP. The bigger issue in this case is that the entrée items cannot exceed 480mg of sodium. Click to open answer

We wrote our policy when the requirements first came out, is that all we need to do?

Actually, policies should be evaluated and updated regularly to reflect changes in your district's needs. In addition, there are new requirements for school wellness policies. Make sure to visit the Policy Requirements section for an updated list of what is required. Click to open answer

Our policy was written, but never implemented. What do we do now?

Both Massachusetts and new federal regulations emphasize implementation. Every year, the School Wellness Advisory Committee appointed by the Superintendent should review the policy for relevance and completeness. Visit the Policy section of this website for detailed requirements and resources. The tools on this website will be useful in updating or revising the policy if needed.

Also, every year the School Wellness Advisory Committee needs to develop an annual action plan for policy implementation. The action plan should lay out what steps will be taken during the year to implement the policy, who is responsible for each step, and when each step should be completed. At the end of the year, an annual report on policy implementation must be submitted to the Superintendent and School Committee and the public must be informed.
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Who will be enforcing whether policies are written and if they are being followed?

During the Administrative Review of your district's school food service program, now on a three-year cycle, the ESE School Nutrition Program Reviewer will check the district's wellness policy to make sure:
   • that all required components are included
   • all required contributors were involved in writing the policy
Districts must also submit to the Department a copy of the most recent assessment of the implementation of the local school wellness policy and must document how the public is informed about implementation progress. Districts with a policy not in compliance with regulations or not having assessed implementation will be asked to take corrective action. In some instances, school nutrition funding may be withheld from non-compliant districts. How the policy is being implemented and what progress has been made in reaching objectives should also be included in the annual report of the School Wellness Advisory Committee, which must be submitted every year to the district Superintendent and School Committee.
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It seems like some of the regulations are coming from the state and others are from the federal government?

This is true. There are two sets of standards that Massachusetts schools need to comply with. At the federal level, USDA provides meal patterns for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In efforts to be even more proactive, Massachusetts has adopted its own set of standards for Competitive foods. To complicate matters, USDA has also released guidelines for Competitive foods. However, Massachusetts law is stronger, and all Massachusetts schools are required to meet these requirements for competitive foods. Click to open answer

What are Competitive Foods and Beverages?

Competitive foods and beverages are foods and beverages that are sold outside of the NSLP. They include:

   • school cafeteria à la carte items (sold separately from school meals
   • school stores, snack bars, vending machines and concession stands
   • school buildings and any other location on school property, including classrooms and hallways

The standards apply to items sold or provided from midnight before the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after the school day ends. Foods and beverages sold in vending machines must meet the standards at all times. These standards took effect in all Massachusetts public schools in August, 2012.
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What about classroom celebrations and fundraisers?

School districts have the discretion to go beyond Massachusetts standards and establish Wellness policies that apply to all settings and/or at all times to promote a healthy school environment throughout the entire day. For example, schools may decide to apply the standards to classroom lessons, parties, and school fundraisers. Click to open answer

We are feeling very limited by what we can offer. What can we sell?

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI), a partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Framingham State University, publishes the "A-List" (or Acceptable List) which meets the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards. Please see

JSI has also created the Massachusetts Nutrition Evaluation Tool, MassNETS, to help schools determine if products, not on the A-List, meet the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages.
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What are the consequences if schools choose not to follow the new Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages in Public Schools?

The new nutrition standards were developed as a result of the School Nutrition Law passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick in July of 2010. Like any other law, the expectation is that these standards will be implemented by all Massachusetts public schools.

A monitoring process is currently in development in conjunction with the new USDA requirements for school meals and competitive foods, but this will not be in effect for a few years. To be most effective, the responsibility for implementing and enforcing the nutrition standards should be a school-wide effort, including parents and the local community, with everyone promoting the healthy growth and development of students. School wellness committees can play an important role in supporting the successful implementation of the standards. We encourage contacting the local board of health, PTA and other community organizations to get their support in helping schools offer nutritious foods and beverages for students.
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