BACKGROUND: A US federal mandate that school districts devise and implement local wellness policies (LWPs) has potential widespread impact on the nutritional content of foods and beverages available in schools and on the amount of physical activity that students engage in; however, evidence concerning the mandate's effectiveness is limited. This study describes the content of LWPs of 6 US school districts and steps taken toward their implementation and evaluation.
METHODS: During visits to 6 school districts, we interviewed 88 school and community representatives about the content of their district's LWPs and how the LWPs were being implemented and evaluated.
RESULTS: The 6 LWPs were consistent with the federal mandate, although they varied in content and degree of specificity, and none had been fully implemented. All 6 districts were pursuing strategies to ensure that foods and beverages available at school met nutrition standards but did not offer nutrition education to all K-12 students. All 6 districts offered students only limited opportunities for physical activity, and all 6 collected data to monitor process and outcomes of their LWPs.
CONCLUSIONS: Partial implementation of LWPs in the districts we visited resulted in significant improvement in the nutritional quality of foods available at district schools, but only slight improvement in students' opportunities for school-based physical activity. We provide recommendations for school districts on implementation and evaluation. Future research is needed to determine the impact of these LWPs on students' health.