Date of Completion

Spring 4-28-2020

Thesis Advisor(s)

Matthew Singer ; Marlene Schwartz

Honors Major

Political Science


Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences


BACKGROUND: The federal government requires that every school district taking part in the Federal Child Nutrition Program have a written district wellness policy of how the districts will address: nutrition education, nutrition guidelines, physical activity, physical education, and parent and community involvement. Although many aspects of school nutrition are federally regulated, there are specific food-related practices that can only be regulated at the district level. Policies concerning these “district-led” practices often appear in the district wellness policy. This study focuses specifically on three topics addressed in district wellness policies: (a) Is free potable drinking water available to students throughout the school day? (b) Are Smart Snacks nutrition standards applied to food sold during fundraisers hosted during school hours? and (c) How do districts address unpaid student balances in the meal program? The aim of this study is to assess how a sample of districts addresses each of these issues in their written district wellness policies and in actual implementation.

METHODS: Through analyzing district wellness policies from 34 districts in Connecticut using the coding tool, the WellSAT 3.0, this study seeks to describe the strength and comprehensiveness of the language of school nutrition polices. The research will be furthered in 4 of these districts through the use of interviews in order to see if there is a difference in the strength of nutrition policy language between districts and the implementation of those nutrition practices in the respective school environments.

RESULTS: Most frequently, school’s practices are stronger than the policy language representing them; however, there were examples of practices in schools that were stronger, weaker, or on par with the written policy. Each of the 4 schools had a policy and practice to address nutrition standards for in-school fundraisers. Only one school had a policy to make water available throughout the entire school day however each districts’ practice was strong. No school had a written policy to address unpaid student meal balances without stigmatizing the students involved, but each of the schools had strong practices.

CONCLUSIONS: Schools are implementing stronger practices than their written policies present. A school’s written policy may not properly represent the strength of their practices.