National School Wellness Policy Study


The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 and, more recently, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required all school districts participating in the federal Child Nutrition Programs (e.g., National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program) to adopt and implement a district-level wellness policy beginning in school year 2006-07 that  include the following:

  • Goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity (PA), and other activities that support student wellness
  • Nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available during the school day (i.e., “competitive foods”)
  • Requirement to allow stakeholder involvement in policy development, implementation, and reporting and to update the community on policy content and implementation efforts
  • A provision to designate officials responsible for ensuring compliance

The Bridging the Gap (BTG) program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the University of Illinois has been conducting the largest, ongoing nationwide evaluation of school wellness policies and all associated state laws.

UIC is nationally recognized as the primary source of wellness policy information. Our data were instrumental in informing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the USDA's updated snack standards for schools. They also strongly influenced changes in wellness policy regulations proposed in 2014. CDC and NCI have both provided supplementary support to help to sustain the district and state law data.

This grant provides bridge funding to support the continuation of the National School Wellness Policy Study (separate from BTG) while the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research and its partners determine the best mechanisms for sustaining this work in the long term. The project will involve the compilation of district policies and state laws for the 2013-2014 school year. Besides providing important data to federal agencies, the policy data will continue to inform the RWJF's policy priorities and advocacy efforts related to school foods and beverages and physical activity at school.

Wellness policies from a nationally representative sample of public school districts and all state laws will be obtained and evaluated using a proven and reliable coding scheme. Data will be linked with school and individual-level data available from secondary data sources to examine school and individual-level outcomes, respectively. Findings from the project will be communicated through a series of policy briefs, webinars, presentations, journal articles, and other materials for use by the Foundation and the advocacy hubs, policymakers, researchers, and broader advocacy communities.

Affiliated Center/Program

What did we do with our findings from this work? THIS:

School Wellness Policy Cooperative Agreement
Principal investigator
Start date
End date
Total award

Related publications

Gourdet CK, Chriqui JF, Piekarz E, Dang Q, Chaloupka FJ. Carrots and sticks: compliance provisions in state competitive food laws-examples for state and local implementation of the updated USDA standards. J Sch Health. 2014 Jul;84(7):466-71. [See abstract.]

Hennessy E, Oh A, Agurs-Collins T, Chriqui JF, Mâsse LC, Moser RP, Perna F. State-level school competitive food and beverage laws are associated with children's weight status. J Sch Health. 2014 Sep;84(9):609-16. [See abstract.]

Hirschman J, Chriqui JF. School food and nutrition policy, monitoring and evaluation in the USA. Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jun;16(6):982-988. Review.

Brener ND, Chriqui JF, O'Toole TP, Schwartz MB, McManus T. Establishing a baseline measure of school wellness-related policies implemented in a nationally representative sample of school districts. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(6):894-901. [See abstract.]

See a list of abstracts on PubMed of articles by Dr. Chriqui and colleagues regarding the National School Wellness Policy study.