• wellness policy;
  • school health policy;
  • school wellness;
  • childhood obesity

BACKGROUND: This study evaluated wellness policies created by Alabama public school districts and progress made in the implementation of Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) school food and nutrition mandates.

METHODS: Wellness policies from Alabama public school districts were compared to minimum requirements under the Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004. Additionally, data were analyzed from a survey of school district superintendents regarding compliance with ALSDE mandates. Districts were graded based on the percentage of 7 components addressed in wellness policies, and on the percentage of ALSDE mandates implemented.

RESULTS: The majority of school districts (71%) were in compliance with all federal wellness policy requirements. An average 6.4 components were addressed, for a mean score of 92%. Mean implementation of ALSDE mandates was 79%; only 7% of districts indicated implementing all of the mandates. No significant differences were found in federal wellness policy or ALSDE mandate compliance scores based on district type, enrollment, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, use of an environmental assessment survey, and use of wellness committee and a nutrition professional during policy development.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of Alabama school districts created school wellness policies with appropriate content. This does not, however, guarantee effective policies. School districts have not done as well implementing ALSDE mandates, demonstrating delay between policy creation and implementation. Future research is needed regarding progress the school districts make in the implementation of school health policy and on factors influencing that progress.