Nutrition/Physical Activity Guidance for Schools & Child Care

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The places where we live, work, play and learn have a big impact on our health. Students spend much of their time at school, making it an ideal setting to teach and model healthy behaviors. School health programs and policies have proven to be one of the most efficient means to prevent or reduce risk behaviors, prevent health problems, and improve academic performance. Schools can reduce how often students are absent, experience behavioral problems, and achieve higher school-wide test scores and grades by implementing strategies to help students stay healthy. 

The Vermont Department of Health is committed to advancing the health of Vermont's youth through comprehensive, evidence-based practices to improve nutrition, physical activity, physical education and health education. In collaboration with statewide partners, we promote the use of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. This model can be used by school and community partners to improve population health and academic achievement outcomes through a collaborative approach with schools, communities, children and families.

Schools across the state have been actively working on building sustainable wellness teams to developing and implementing strong programs and policies to help improve the school nutrition and physical environments. Check out some of their success stories

Vermont School Wellness Policy Guidelines

Research shows that healthy kids are better learners and healthy staff are more engaged school and community members. A school wellness policy is a great first step towards creating this type of healthy, supportive school environment. A local school wellness policy is a written document that guides a local educational agency’s (LEA) or school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn. All school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program are required to develop and implement a school district wellness policy.

Partners from the Vermont Department of Health, Agency of Education, and Agency of Agriculture Food, & Markets collaborated to develop the Vermont School Wellness Policy Guidelines . These guidelines are designed to help schools develop and implement comprehensive nutrition and physical activity policies that meet or exceed federal and state laws and related regulations. The guide includes resources to help your Supervisory Union or School District make wellness an ongoing part of your school community, including sections on:
  • Forming a team
  • Assessing your current policy
  • Developing and implementing Physical Activity and Nutrition Wellness Policy elements
  • Evaluating and monitoring

Think about particular strengths and values of your school. Are nutrition and healthy eating especially important to your staff, students, and families? Do you have a school garden and farm-to-school activities? Are you looking to integrate more physical activity into the classroom? All this and more included in the guidelines.

After your wellness committee has revised and strengthened your wellness policy, it is time to take action at your school. Wellness policies are living documents, so this includes reviewing and evaluating your policy regularly to keep track of the goals you have completed and continue to set new goals. The Vermont Wellness Policy Implementation Tool can serve as a template to organize your school or LEA’s plans.

Also, consider how your LEA/school will communicate ongoing implementation efforts with LEA/School leadership, faculty and staff, school boards, parents and caregivers, and the community

Explore the School Guidelines: Key Nutrition & Physical Activity Strategies

Key Vermont Strategies - Nutrition :

Ensure school meets Nutrition Standards.

  • Place all foods on campus under direction of Food Service staff, including a-la-carte foods, school stores, vending machines, and fund-raisers.
  •  Reduce the amount of salt in meals by choosing lower sodium versions of foods and flavoring foods with spices and herbs. Check out the Vermont Low Sodium Recipes for fun tips and recipe ideas for the cafeteria and other school functions.
  • Remove marketing of junk food which can negatively influence student food choices.

Eliminate sugary drinks and provide free drinking water all day.

  • Includes sports drinks, sodas, juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Ensure plain drinking water is available throughout the school day.

Key Vermont Strategies - Physical Activity

Provide students with quality physical education classes.

  • Supply safe physical education equipment and ensure accessible facilities are provided to enable each student to be engaged and practice skills.
  • Include flexible pathways and personalized learning plans.

Require schools to offer 30 minutes of physical activity daily.

  • Offer before, during, after school opportunities for studens and staff to be active through development of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program. Check out the Active Learning Toolkit for physical activity opportunities and resources to support classroom teachers, physical educators, and anyone wishing to encourage youth to be active in the classroom. 
  • Work with local public works, planners, and police departments to ensure that students have safe routes to walk and bike to school.
  • Limit screen time. Check out our  resources for parents and educators   
Information for Parents and Child Care Providers

Child care programs have a significant role to play in helping children form healthy eating and physical activity habits that will last a lifetime. With children spending up to ten hours a day in child care, there are many opportunities to encourage them to move their bodies and try new skills like running, skipping, dancing and climbing. Nutrition can be taught through healthy food identification, gardening and fruit and vegetable taste tests.

For Parents

Vermont child care programs are regulated by the state of Vermont’s Child Development Division. State regulations include nutrition and physical activity regulations that ensure programs follow federal child nutrition guidelines, don’t provide sugary beverages to children and allow for moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 60 minutes per day. Many programs do even more to help children learn healthy habits. When considering child care programs or if your child is enrolled in a program already, discuss with the provider what their practices are regarding nutrition and physical activity to be sure it matches your expectations.

For Child Care Providers

We encourage child care providers to use the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) to assess nutrition and physical activity policies and practices in their program. This simple tool provides ways to strengthen your work in these areas. Little or no-cost ways to teach children can easily be incorporated into your program, such as featuring a fruit or vegetable each week through books, taste tests and other activities, and providing a variety of ways to be physically active including simple yoga poses, dancing and fun obstacle courses appropriate for the children in your care.

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More Resources

General Wellness Policy Resources

Assessment Resources

Linking Wellness Polices to School Improvement Plans

Content Resources

Professional Development & Training

Data

Looking for school health related data? Check out our Physical Activity and Nutrition Surveillance page for State, County, and Supervisory Union level data.

To learn more about school wellness efforts in your area, contact your Local Health School Liaison:

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