School wellness policies important foundation for healthy school environments

As a baby boomer, I fondly remember walking to school each day, the extended time at lunch to chat with my friends and the fun I had at recesses. My grandchildren’s experiences are much different. Today’s children don’t have the same chance to be healthy, due to decreases in the amount of physical education, recess time and active play time offered at schools. Some children have limited access to healthy food at home and school, and many are bombarded with unhealthy food offerings. The result is that the prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled during the past 40 years and an estimated one out-of-three children is overweight or obese.

Children with obesity not only suffer significant medical and psychosocial effects, but they also do poorly in school. Several studies have looked at school performance in children who are overweight or obese. The grim news is that in every age category, overweight and obesity has a negative impact on school performance. The link between academic achievement and children’s nutrition and physical activity behaviors is strong. Providing access to healthy foods and physical activity during the school day plays a vital role in academic achievement and behavior. Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance, and classroom behaviors. Deficits in certain nutrients are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness among students.

In 2012, Weighing In and KU Medical Center conducted a School Wellness Assessment Study. Forty-six school districts in the Kansas City Metropolitan area participated. Our study revealed that school personnel want easy ways to consistently communicate the purpose of school wellness policies with parents and families. In response, the Healthy Schools Committee identified 11 priority policies and developed resource documents for each with a version for administrators, teachers and parents. These include details on a ‘model’ policy, why each policy is important and ideas for implementation.

With school resuming, it’s a great time for parents and school staff to review school wellness policies at your school, and our new resources give you a place to start. By providing healthy environments, schools make it easier for students to practice and reinforce appropriate behaviors that lead to better health. This in turn, supports achievement of better grades, test scores, and attendance that sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy habits. View the 11 policies, complete with versions for administrators, family and staff, courtesy of Children’s Mercy’s website:

Policy Version
Healthy role models Administrator || Staff || Family
Family involvement Administrator || Staff || Family
Restrict marketing of unhealthy choices Administrator || Staff || Family
Healthy vending and ala carte Administrator || Staff || Family
Avoiding food as a reward Administrator || Staff || Family
Food served at celebrations Administrator || Staff || Family
Ensuring adequate time to eat Administrator || Staff || Family
Regulating food sold for fundraising Administrator || Staff || Family
Providing physical activity breaks Administrator || Staff || Family
Physical activity is not punishment Administrator || Staff || Family
Elementary recess Administrator || Staff || Family

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at


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