Homework for 2017 – Making Sure Your District’s Wellness Policy is Up to Date!

healthy-lunch-schoolHas your district finished its 2016 homework?  Is the date June 30, 2017, circled on your calendar?  If not, maybe it should be because June 30, 2017, is the deadline by which all local educational agencies that participate in the National School Lunch Program (“NSLP”) and School Breakfast Program (“SBP”) need to comply with expanded school wellness policy and recordkeeping requirements imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) – the federal agency that administers the NLSP, SBP and other school nutrition programs.

The FNS recently issued a new federal rule announcing the FNS’ adoption of expanded “wellness policy” requirements for all local educational agencies that participate in the NLSP and SBP (chances are your school district is a participating local educational agency).  By way of background, the wellness policy component of the NLSP and SBP requires participating school districts to maintain a local school wellness policy that addresses a host of items relating to student health and nutrition.  For instance, FNS’ regulations mandate that participating districts maintain wellness plans that address “[s]pecific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school based activities that promote student wellness” and “[s]tandards and nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day.”  7 C.F.R. § 210.31.

FNS’ new rule expands and clarifies the required elements of district wellness policies.  As a result of the new rule by June 30, 2017, school wellness policies must be expanded to address “non-sold” foods and beverages made available to students during the school day (e.g. foods offered during classroom parties and foods offered to students as rewards).  Additionally, wellness policies must be amended to clarify that only food and beverage items that meet NSLP and SBP nutrition standards may be marketed to students during the school day.

Finally, the FNS’ new rule also imposes new recordkeeping and self-assessment requirements.  Pursuant to the rule, participating local agencies are now required to maintain documentation demonstrating the agency’s efforts to permit community involvement in the development, implementation and periodic review of the local wellness policy along with documentation concerning the agency’s efforts to inform the public of the content and implementation the local wellness policy and progress towards meeting the wellness policy’s goals. In terms of self-assessment, the FNS’ new rule eliminates a yearly wellness policy progress reporting requirement in favor of a new provision that requires each local educational agency to assess its wellness policy compliance once every three years and make such assessment available to the public.

Don’t let the June 30, 2017, deadline for revisions to your local district wellness policy slide!  In addition to the new local educational agency requirements imposed by the new rule, the rule also requires administering state agencies – in our case the Connecticut State Department of Education – to review local school wellness policies as part of a new triannual review process, the first iteration of which will begin in the 2017-18 school year.

Please contact any of the attorneys of our School Law Section if your school district or educational agency needs assistance in complying with the FNS’ new wellness policy requirements.  Good luck!