Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Health and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Jessica Meendering


Schools that participate in the US Child Nutrition program are required to have a wellness policy. Many state agencies provide model wellness policies to aid schools in writing wellness policies. However, use of model wellness policies has not been associated with higher quality policies. PURPOSE: Assess the strength and comprehensiveness of model wellness policies and to determine if federal regulations are more likely to be included in model wellness policies than evidence-based, best-practices that are not required per federal regulation. METHODS: Model wellness policies available online through state agency websites in January 2019 were analyzed for comprehensiveness and strength using the Wellness School Assessment Tool 3.0 (WellSAT 3.0). The percentage of model policies that included each WellSAT 3.0 item was calculated and item status as a federal regulation or best-practice was assigned. Linear regression was used to determine if federal regulation status was associated with inclusion in model wellness policies. RESULTS: Thirty-four states had model wellness polices available online. The total comprehensiveness and strength of model wellness policies was 59.3 ± 17.5 and 21.4 ± 17.6, respectively, out of 100 possible points. Among policy sections, comprehensiveness was highest within Nutrition Education (NE) (73.2 ± 31.6) and lowest in Wellness Promotion and Marketing (49.8 ± 27.2). The NE section had the highest strength (30.9 ± 31.4) and the Physical Education and Physical Activity section had the lowest strength (14.7 ± 13.8). Of the 67 WellSAT 3.0 items, 20 were included in ≥75% of model policies. Ten items were included in ≤25% of model policies. On average, WellSAT 3.0 items that were federal regulations (n=18) were covered in 71% of model policies, while best-practices (n=49) were only covered in 54% of model policies (p=.008). CONCLUSION: There is a need to improve the comprehensiveness and strength of model wellness policies provided to schools by state agencies. The development of a uniform model policy may be warranted to provide schools with a comprehensive list of federal regulations and best-practices, written with strong language, for inclusion within their school wellness policy.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Schools -- Health promotion services -- Evaluation.
School children -- Nutrition -- Government policy.
Physical fitness for children -- Government policy.
Obesity in children -- Prevention.
Health promotion.
Health education.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright