At the 60th annual national conference of the Alexandria, Va.-based School Nutrition Association on July 16-19, the federally mandated policies were a topic of educational sessions and other meetings.
Erik Peterson, director of public awareness for the SNA, said the association had collected 260 sample policies from 15,000 school districts by early July.
A Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 mandate requires that school districts have local school wellness policies for the start of the school year. Policies were to be in place by July 1.
The SNA plans to assess school district compliance and creation of school wellness policies. Peterson said the group hopes to present feedback by mid- to late August.
Some wellness policies have been as small as one sentence, while others are 40 pages. The association, he said, is in favor of national standards for the federal policy, which allows schools to create individual wellness guidelines.
There are no penalties for schools that don’t properly follow the mandate, Peterson said.
To help some schools reach their nutrition goals, Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., Salinas, Calif., plans to ship produce to 50 California schools for use in salad bars this year, said Terry Kuhel, business development manager for foodservice.
Meeting nutrition guidelines under the wellness policy mandate is not going to be easy, said John Heidkamp, central division foodservice manager in Northfield, Ill., for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif.
“A lot of times, somebody says, ‘The person with the short straw got the health and wellness job at their school,’” he said. “But what you find is usually the person that has the most energy at the school will take it upon themselves to help introduce it throughout the whole school.”