National Study of School District Policies and Elementary School Practices Addressing Childhood Obesity

Also known as

Food and Fitness


To collect detailed information on physical education and other physical activity-related activities, the school food environment, and school policies, programs and practices that potentially impact children.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that all schools receiving federal funding for school breakfast and lunch programs must implement wellness policies by the start of the 2006-2007 school year. These policies address both physical activity and nutrition. At the same time, public health professionals are promoting environmental and policy interventions to combat the growing prevalence of childhood obesity. Neither (1) the quality and characteristics of these school policies; (2) the extent to which they are being implemented as written; or (3) whether the policies and practices differ by such school district characteristics as student socioeconomic and demographic profiles, community characteristics or school district finances has been documented adequately. This solicited project will collect and report comprehensive information on food environments and physical activity in a nationally representative sample of elementary (K-5) schools, as well as on those schools' district-level wellness and other policies that potentially have an impact on children's obesity in those districts. The researchers will use the data to examine the associations between policies and practices at the school level and district- and state-level policies, school finances and school and community characteristics. The findings will help to inform the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's childhood obesity strategies to monitor progress and problems, identify challenges and opportunities that Foundation initiatives might address, and monitor in particular the school districts with low-income children and racial or ethnic populations that are most affected by the obesity epidemic. The researchers will design an elementary school administrator survey; develop two databases of (1) school-level policies, programs and practices, and (2) district-level policies related to childhood obesity; design a rating system of policies; and produce summary analyses of their findings.

Research Partner(s)

Institute of Social Research at University of Michigan

Affiliated Center/Program

Principal investigator
Funding Agency

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grants No. 59266 and 63689)

Start date
End date
Total award
About this grant

This research continues beyond 2008 as part of Bridging the Gap.