School health programs and policies are proven to be effective in preventing and reducing risky behaviors, preventing health problems, and improving 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 wellness teams that develop and implement strong programs and policies to help improve the school nutrition and physical environments.

Vermont school wellness policy guidelines

Research shows that healthy kids are better learners and healthy staff are more engaged in their roles as educators. 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.

The Vermont Agency of Education recently revised the Vermont School Wellness Policy Guidelines. These guidelines are designed to help schools develop and implement comprehensive nutrition, physical activity and other wellness 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.

Wellness policies are living documents, needing regular review to monitor progress and develop new goals. LEAs and schools should also communicate ongoing implementation efforts with their 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 students 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 nutritious eating and physical activity habits that will last a lifetime. There are many opportunities to encourage children to move their bodies and try new skills like running, skipping, dancing and climbing. Nutrition can be taught through food identification, gardening and other farm to early childhood program activities, including fruit and vegetable taste tests.

For Parents

Vermont child care programs are regulated by the state of Vermont’s Child Development Division. State licensing regulations include nutrition and physical activity regulations that ensure programs follow federal child nutrition guidelines 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

Early childhood programs can encourage healthy eating habits by having water available at all times, encouraging families to include fruits and vegetables in the foods they provide and for programs that provide snacks or meals, following the Child and Adult Care Food Program guidance for menu planning. 

Farm to Early Childhood programming is an excellent way to encourage young children to enjoy eating fresh, local fruits and vegetables while their preferences are still forming. This sets the stage for healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. This is accomplished by offering hands-on educational experiences with nutritious food, cooking, gardening, and exposure to local farms and foods systems. Children who participate in creating their own food are more likely to try it, adding more fruits and vegetables to the foods they enjoy. Things like early childhood program gardens also allow for physical activity outdoors while children help to tend the garden.

Young children should get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This can easily be accomplished outdoors and with indoor activities such as simple yoga poses, dancing and fun obstacle courses appropriate for the children in your care. Find more ideas for ways to keep children moving here.

More Resources

General Wellness Policy Resources

Content Resources

State of Vermont Resources

  • There are School Liaisons to assist you with your school wellness efforts in each of the Local Health Offices.
  • Schools play an important role in shaping the health of Vermonters. Learn more about 3-4-50 and sign-on to show your organization’s commitment to reducing chronic disease.

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.

Schools play an important role in shaping the health of Vermonters. Learn more about 3-4-50 and sign-on to show your organization’s commitment to reducing chronic disease.

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