This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation of Alabama Public School Wellness Policies and State School Mandate Implementation




Gaines, Alisha

Type of Degree



Nutrition and Food Science


Wellness policies from 91 of 131 (69%) Alabama (AL) public school systems were compared to federal guidelines required by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. To assess the school food and nutrition environment, data were analyzed from 123 (94%) school system superintendent surveys regarding compliance with/implementation of school food and nutrition mandates issued by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) in 2005. School systems were evaluated (graded) based on the percentage of seven federal components addressed in the individual wellness policies. A second percentage grade was issued based on the percentage of ALSDE mandates completed. The majority of school systems (71%) were in full compliance with all federal wellness policy requirements. On average, school systems addressed 6.4 of the 7 components, for a mean percentage grade of 92%. Physical activity was the most frequently addressed component (99%), while evaluation of the wellness policy (80%) and identification of a party responsible for evaluation (79%) were the least addressed components. Mean implementation of ALSDE food and nutrition mandates was 79%. Only nine of 123 systems (7%) indicated completion of all ALSDE mandates. Creation of a wellness policy and positive changes in cafeteria menus were the most commonly implemented mandates, and use of an assessment survey to evaluate the school health environment for wellness policy development was the least often completed task. Lastly, several factors were analyzed to determine their impact on federal wellness policy compliance scores and ALSDE mandate compliance scores. There were no significant differences in federal wellness policy or ALSDE mandate compliance scores based on system type, enrollment, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, use of an environmental assessment survey, and use of wellness committee and a registered dietitian/nutrition degree holder during policy development. AL school systems did well creating school wellness policies with appropriate content. This does not, however, guarantee good quality or effective policies. School systems have not done as well implementing ALSDE mandates, demonstrating a delay between school health policy creation and implementation. Future research is needed regarding progress school systems make in implementation of school health mandates, and on the factors influencing that progress.