How to Start a School Wellness Council

Adriana Velez
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Flickr photo by Jamie Buschemi
Want some say about your kids' school cafeteria food? Wondering where gym class and recess went? You might want to either join or start a Wellness Council at your school.

What is a Wellness Council? (Pardon me while I use my wonk voice.) In the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, the US Congress established a requirement for school districts that participate in federally funded school meal programs to develop and implement a wellness policy.

In other words, if your kids go to public school, there should be a group of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and staff talking about a set of guidelines to promote health at your school.

Your school may already have a wellness council, and you have the right to join it. Otherwise, it's time to start one!

So how do you start a wellness council? Dr. Susan Rubin, of the Two Angry Moms documentary, describes steps to starting a wellness council on her website Better School Food. Healthy Schools Campaign has an interactive Wellness Guide. And you can find model school wellness policies at, you guessed it, SchoolWellnessPolicies.org

Then what? You're setting goals, but you're also educating yourself. Be patient. It may take a lot of time to build relationships, learn how your school food system works, and figure out the best ways to make change. Be sure you start off with a friendly, supportive tone and listen to everyone's ideas and opinions. Cafeteria staff may get defensive if they feel like you're criticizing the job they do, and you want them on your side. Reach out to wellness councils at other schools in your area to share ideas and support each other. Don't be discouraged if you haven't made significant changes by the end of the year -- these things take time, and you will make a real impact.

Want some inspiration? Watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution online, watch What's On Your Plate, and check out Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign.

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