Sharpen the Wellness Policy in your School

Steps in the Process of Developing a Wellness Policy

The following is a basic list of steps to help schools organize policy efforts, whether the policy needs minor revisions or more significant rewriting.

Step 1: Convene your "School Wellness Advisory Committee" (SWAC)

Most schools have a team or committee in place that created the original wellness policy, but perhaps the players have changed or the committee has not remained active. The 2012 Massachusetts law, An Act Relative to School Nutrition, required that schools have a School Wellness Advisory Committee (SWAC) in place with specific key members. This SWAC may also serve as the wellness policy development team. If your committee is no longer active, now is the time to re-energize. It is important for the SWAC to understand how policies are presented and adopted in their specific school district.

For specific committee requirements and expectations,
visit our "School Wellness Advisory Committee" page

Step 2: Assess Your District's Needs and Current Policy

Now is the time for schools to review and update their district wellness policy to align with current Massachusetts and federal guidelines and regulations and district priorities to reflect the changing needs. Massachusetts School Wellness Advisory Committees (SWACs) are required to conduct a needs assessment, review student health data and existing school programs. This will help to determine the nutrition and physical activity needs and other health issues of your students and identify areas to focus on. Look for national, state, and local data on the education and health status of young people.

The following information and data sources may provide useful insight in shaping policy goals and objectives:

There are a number of tools and data sources that schools can use to conduct an assessment. Please visit our "Assessment Tools" on the Tools and Ideas page.

Step 3: Review and update your Policy

Use this checklist to ensure that your SWAC has included all necessary components in the policy. If you are updating an existing policy, remember that monitoring and evaluation are a key requirement for updated policies. Use the following list of questions to review your policy:

For a printable checklist of these questions, download the Local Wellness Policy Checklist.

Review our sample policies for ideas, but keep in mind that the needs of each school and district will vary. The following are some policy development tools that may be useful.

Step 4: Build Awareness and Support

Educate and enlist various audiences in discussions about your policy initiatives. Ensure all spokespeople are informed and can provide a consistent message to support your efforts and address any concerns that may arise.

Consider the following questions and suggestions when garnering support from each of the following groups of stakeholders.

Step 5: Adopt and Implement the Policy


The School Wellness Advisory Committee (SWAC) should become familiar with school committee procedures related to policy presentation and adoption.


Implementation can occur all at once or may be phased-in over time. Make sure to provide resources and education to those who will help to implement the policy:

Annual Action Plan

The Massachusetts regulations for district-level School Wellness Advisory Committees stipulate that the SWACs must write an annual action plan that:

The Annual Action Plan should include

One especially helpful approach to developing an annual action plan is to remember that good objectives should be "SMART." That is, the objectives most likely to lead to good results are:

A good action plan specifies what is to be done during the year, who is responsible for doing it, and when activities will be completed.

Step 6 Maintain, Measure and Evaluate the Effort

At least one person must be officially designated to ensure that the district is implementing its policy. Regular (at least annual) implementation reports must be presented to the Superintendent and the School Committee, shared with the public, and submitted to ESE on request as part of the Administrative Review of the district's school food service program. Monitoring activities, measuring progress, and evaluating results are critical!

Monitoring activities: The most basic kind of evaluation, sometimes termed "process evaluation," involves simply monitoring whether activities have been carried out as planned. It answers the questions, "Did you do what you set out to do?" and "How much?" The following are sample questions for monitoring different aspects of the wellness policy:

Measuring progress: In addition to documenting what has been done, your district will also be interested in the outcomes of those efforts. How much progress has been made toward achieving the improvement goals of your wellness policy? To measure progress, it is usually necessary to know where you began, so gathering baseline data is very useful. A few examples of short-term outcomes that might be measured include

Evaluating Results: The ultimate goal of wellness policies is to have children and adolescents who are healthier now and prepared to live healthier lives in the future. Although measuring many long-term outcomes (for example, better eating habits in adulthood) is beyond the capacity of most school districts, it is important to find ways to evaluate the impact the school wellness policy is having. Is it making a difference? What is working? What's not working? How do you know? Think about what evidence you could collect that would show a positive impact of your district's policy. Some questions a district might consider in evaluating the results of its policy are:

Step 7: Report on Progress

Communication ensures that you meet the requirement of openness and accountability, but it is also invaluable for building support for the wellness policy. The SWAC can explain the rational for policy goals and any changes that have been made. It is important that all key stakeholders and members of the school community are aware of policy goals.