How to Rate Policy Statements

School wellness policies are evaluated based on the degree to which they address 78 policy items, which are categorized into six sections. The sections include Nutrition Education (1), Standards for USDA Child Nutrition Programs and School Meals (2), Nutrition Standards for Competitive and Other Foods and Beverages (3), Physical Education and Activity (4), Wellness Promotion and Marketing (5) and Implementation, Evaluation and Communication (6).

District wellness policy statements are to be rated "0," "1," or "2," using the definitions below. This assessment tool lists each policy item followed by an explanation of the item and examples of statements that would be rated "1" and "2".
Click the icon to see example statements.

0 - Not Mentioned

The item is not included in the text of the policy.


1 - Weak Statement

Assign a rating of "1" when the item is mentioned, but

  • The policy will be hard to enforce because the statement is vague, unclear, or confusing.
  • Statements are listed as goals, aspirations, suggestions, or recommendations.
  • There are loopholes in the policy that weaken enforcement of the item.
  • The policy mentions a future plan to act without specifying when the plan will be established.

Words often used include: may, can, could, should, might, encourage, suggest, urge, some, partial, make an effort, and try.


2 - Meets or Exceeds Expectations

Assign a rating of "2" when the item is mentioned and it is clear that the policy makers are committed to making the item happen because:

  • The item is described using specific language (e.g., a concept followed by concrete plans or strategies for implementation).
  • Strong language is used to indicate that action or regulation is required, including: shall, will, must, have to, insist, require, all, total, comply and enforce.
  • A district is unable to enforce an item (e.g., teachers role modeling healthy behaviors), but the goal is clearly stated (e.g., "shall encourage teachers to role model healthy behaviors").

IMPORTANT: Many states have laws that exceed federal standards for foods and beverages. It is important to become familiar with relevant laws in your state. To review state laws pertaining to wellness, visit: NASBE

One method for deciding between assigning a rating of "1" or "2" is to consider the scenario of a parent approaching a school district’s Board of Education to discuss an issue. If the policy is ambiguous on how the school should handle the issue, assign the item a rating of "1." If the written policy gives clear guidance about how to decide whether the school complies with the policy, assign the item a rating of "2."

Note: Many districts have policies in place that may impact or overlap with the district wellness policy. For example, many school boards have a stand-alone policy addressing student transportation that may address biking to school. If biking to school is also covered in the wellness policy, it is important to align the content of the two policies to avoid sending contradictory messages to the school community. Click here for more information.