School Wellness



The School Wellness working group is a network of researchers and school health practitioners initiated in 2014 to share ongoing work pertaining to school wellness policies, programs, and practices, and to foster partnerships for continuing this work.

The working group aims to identify and address research and practice gaps and is focused in particular on the implementation and evaluation of district policies, state laws, and federal policies and their impact on wellness practices in K-12 school settings.


The goal of the School Wellness working group is to support the establishment of strong local school wellness policies and their successful implementation in US school systems/districts and schools, consistent with the requirements of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Key Activities and Findings

Key Activities include:

  • Identified interested stakeholders and created working group. Members include academics and representatives from non-profit agencies and school systems (n=49)
  • Hosted formal presentations by members during bimonthly meetings via conference call
  • Facilitated on and off-line information sharing
  • Prepared and submitted a conference abstract
  • Initiated first working group project
    • Identify tools for measuring wellness policy implementation via systematic review and member communication. Develop measures repository.

Future Activities:

  • Hold monthly meetings with speakers, planned/scheduled in advance
  • Grow membership with planned outreach to content experts and those with school district or building level expertise
  • Resubmit or repurpose conference abstract
  • Complete current working group project
  • Generate new working group projects


Download the School Wellness Policy Overview for more information

Download the ‘Wellness Teams Work’ brief here

View recording and meeting minutes from monthly calls below:

December 2020: Dissemination of the School Wellness Integration Targeting Children’s Health (SWITCH) Program (Rachel Sweeney, MS, RD & Gabriella McLoughlin, PhD) and The Co-Benefits of Healthy Eating (Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD & Megan Reynolds, MPH)

November 2020:   Wellness Champions for Change Intervention and Evaluation of Teacher Health Behaviors and Classroom Physical Activity Practices (Erin Hager, Liz Parker, and Ann Kuhn)

October 2020: Association of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act
With Dietary Quality Among Children in the US
National School Lunch Program (Kelsey Kinderknecht, MPH, RD & Jesse Jones-Smith, PhD) and Healthier Generation’s
Model Local School Wellness Policy and Quick Start Health Assessment (Nancy Katz, MS, RDN, Alliance for a Healthier Generation)

September 2020: Physical Education and COVID-19 (Erin E. Centeio, The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa) and School Reentry for K-12 Physical Education, Health Education and Physical Activity (Carly Wright, SHAPE America)

August 2020: School Closures During COVID-19: Opportunities For Innovation in Meal Service (Eliza Kinney), Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT): What We Know and Don’t Know (Sheila Fleischhacker), Policy Updates on COVID-19 School Meal Service (Liz Campbell-Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Leyla Marandi-Center for Ecoliteracy, Alek Ostrander, University of Michigan)

July 2020: A Systems Approach Helps Explain Significant Improvements in in LWPs Among SNAP-Ed Supported School Districts (Theresa LeGros and Dr. Kathryn Orzech, the University of Arizona Department of Nutritional Sciences)

June 2020: Adaptation of the WellSAT to the WSCC Model (Sandy Chafouleas, Taylor Koriakin, Sarah McKee, and Marlene Schwartz, University of Connecticut Rudd Center).

May 2020: State and Federal Policy Research and Advocacy (Meghan Maroney from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Chad Killian, Georgia State University).

April 2020: Rapid Health Impact Assessment for School Meal standards; COVID-19 Legislation, Policies, Research and Evaluations (Lindsey Turner, Sheila Fleischhacker & Erin Hager, Donovan Lessard, Gabriella McLoughlin)

March 2020: A Strategic Planning Process for Creating Comprehensive Health and Wellness Plans (Benjamin Ingman, Elaine Belanskey, & Carla Loeke, University of Denver)

January 2020: The NYC Well Campaign and Cooking Outside the Box (Pam Koch, Laura Raen, Claire Raffel, & Raynika Trent, Columbia University Teachers College)

December 2019: Physically active lessons and their effects on physical activity, education, health, and cognition: A systematic review and meta-analysis (Emma Norris, Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London) and Making the case for equity in classroom-based physical activity interventions (Rebecca Hasson, University of Michigan School of Kinesiology)

November 2019: Healthy Chicago Public Schools Initiative

October 2019: Weight, Diet, and Academic Effects of a Breakfast in the Classroom Initiative

September 2019: Engaging State-Level and Local School Wellness Councils/Representatives: Insights from Researchers and Practitioners


  • Erin Hager, University of Maryland School of Medicine
  • Caitlin Merlo, CDC
  • William Celestine, Los Angeles Unified SD
  • Charlene Burgeson, Active Schools
  • Laura Liechty, Iowa 4H
  • Claire Brown, Live Well Omaha Kids


July 2019: Comprehensive School-Based Physical Activity Models: Addressing Promotion and Assessment Issues through Collaborative Research (Andy Daly-Smith & Gabriella McLoughlin)

View PDF of PPT slides here:

View recording here:

April 2019: Updating a Tool to Measure School Wellness Policies: Well SAT 3.0 (Marlene Schwartz)


March 2019: A systematic review to assess comprehensiveness, practicality, quality, and applicability of observational audit tools to measure schools’ physical activity and food environments (Hannah Lane & Katie Campbell, University of Maryland)


December 2018: Schoolhouse 2.0: Preliminary Findings from a Comprehensive School Wellness Intervention (Stacey Snelling, American University)


November 2018: From Process to Practice: Better understanding the components of a high-quality recess and the implications for schools (William Massey, Oregon State University and Jennette Claassen, Playworks)


October 2018: Wellness at Work! Evaluation of Wellness in the Schools Program (Pamela Koch – Columbia University, Nancy Easton –  Wellness in the Schools)


September 2018: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program – CSPAP (Russell Carson – University of Northern Colorado, Collin Webster – University of South Carolina)


July 2018: Preliminary Results from Physically Active Classrooms Energize! (Hannah Calvert, Boise State University)


June 2018: Strengthening Wellness Policies Through Assessment (Deirdre Kleske, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative)


May 2018: ” Updating School Wellness Policy Measurement: WellSAT 3.0 and WellSAT-Interview” (Marlene Schwartz, UConn Rudd Center)


April 2018: “School Wellness Programming through SWITCH (School Wellness Integration)” (Greg Welk and Joey Lee, Iowa State University)


February 2018: “Empowered Eaters: A Road Map for Stronger Nutrition Education Policies” (Pam Koch and Claire Uno, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy)


December 2017: ” Structuring Urban Districts to Support Strong Wellness Policies Engaging Parents in School Health: Parent for Healthy Kids” (Amy Moyer, Action for Healthy Kids)


November 2017: “Spice My Plate” (Chris D’Adamo, University of Maryland School of Medicine) and “Evidence Supporting School-Based Wellness Teams: The Maryland School Wellness Partnership Projects” (Erin Hager, University of Maryland School of Medicine)


October 2017: “School-based Lunch and Recess: The Impact of Recess Schedule on Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Behavior” (Gabriella McLoughlin, Doctoral Candidate, University of Illinois)


September 2017: “Working on Wellness: National Wellness Policy Study State and District Reports” (Betsy Piekarz-Porter, JD)



August 2017: “School wellness committees are associated with lower BMI z-scores and improved dietary outcomes in U.S. schoolchildren”  (Lauren Au, PhD, RD), “America’s Healthiest Schools: Campaign Overview” (Renee Gross, JD)



June 2017: #WellnessWins Campaign Report” (Meghan Dinh), “Investigating How to Align Schools’ Marketing Policies with Federal Standards for Competitive Foods” (Michele Polacsek, PhD)



May 2017: “Building Healthy Communities: Elementary School Program” (Erin Centeio, PhD), “FoodCorps: Creating Healthy School Environments” (Eva Ringstrom and Pamela Koch)



April 2017: “Food Marketing in U.S. School Districts: Findings form the School Health Policies and Practices Study, 2012.” (Caitlin Merlo, PhD), “Curbing Marketing to Students: What the Final Wellness Policy Rule Means for Schools” (Alexis Etow and Sabrina Adler),



March 2017: “Development and Validation of a Photo-Evidence Method to Examine Effective Drinking Water Access in Schools” (Anisha Patel, MD), “Safe Water in Schools” (Christina Hecht, PhD), “Alliance for a Healthier Generation-#wellnesswins Campaign Preview” (Renee Gross, JD)



February 2017: “Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP) Evaluation” (Jeanne Barcelona, MA, Doctoral Candidate), “Let’s Move Active Schools” (Victoria Jarzabkowski, MS, RDN)



December 2016: “Perspectives on “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA)



November 2016: “Creating Intersections for Policy, Practice, Research, and Community Collaboration: A State-Based Example”



September 2016: ‘Student Feedback on School Meals’ and ‘Look Alike Snacks Study’



August 2016: ‘The ScOPE Project: School Obesity-Related Policy Evaluation’ and ‘Student Photo Voice to Promote Wellness’



July 2016: Associations between School Demographic Characteristics and Physical Activity Practices in Nevada


June 2016: The Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices Project


April 2016: Healthi Kids – Parents as Partners: A Grassroots Approach to Advocacy for Children’s Healthy Weight


March 2016: Developing a Reliable, Valid Measure of School Wellness Policy Implementation: The WellSAT-I


December 2015: Culinary Bootcamp



Erin Hager, PhD
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Juliana Cohen, Sc.M, Sc.D
Merrimack College

Working Group Fellows
Ann Pulling Kuhn, PhD
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Amelie Hecht, PhD
National Poverty Fellow Institute for Research on Poverty                University of Wisconsin-Madison
In residence: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation          U.S. Department of Health & Human Services