At the end of June, the Chicago Board of Education adopted a new Local School Wellness Policy, a new Healthy Snack and Beverage Policy and a Breakfast in the Classroom Policy, which—along with the existing PE Policy—are collectively referred to as the wellness policy. This policy impacts the health and wellness of the more than 380,000 students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
We were pleased to see that the newly adopted policy includes a number of provisions that advance the health and wellness of students. The policy strengthens school food policy, increases access to nutritious foods, restricts junk food marketing, and promotes healthy classrooms and schools.
CPS is a national leader when it comes to its wellness policy and has been working hard to improve the health and wellness of its students through initiatives such as Breakfast in the Classroom, bringing back recess and implementing high standards for school food. The CPS wellness policy is considered one of the strongest in the country, and many Chicago schools have made great strides in implementing the policy.
CPS continues to be a leader with the new wellness policy by:
- Prohibiting reformulated products, foods that look like popular brands but are reformulated to meet school meal standards
- Committing to procuring local and sustainably grown food—including no antibiotic ever chicken
- Committing to implement the standards of Chicago’s Good Food Purchasing Policy
- Expanding the breakfast policy to include high schools and additional service delivery
- Formally adopting the community eligibility provision, which allows all CPS students to get free meals
- Restricting food and beverage marketing during the school day to only those items that meet the wellness policy
- Requiring approval for all non-food fundraisers and requiring schools to forfeit revenue from non-approved activities
- Limiting the number of school celebrations that serve foods of minimal nutritional value to two per year
- Requiring opportunities for physical activity
- Encouraging schools to open up their facilities to the community outside of school hours
- Requiring schools provide programming that links the classroom, dining center and school gardens
- Requiring schools provide progress reports to the Office of Student Health and Wellness and complete an annual survey.
Both state policy and the district’s policy currently mandate daily PE. A new provision has been added to the policy that allows the Chief Health Officer to update the PE requirements if the state changes the PE standards, without Board approval. Given the myriad attempts to eliminate the state of Illinois’ daily PE requirement, especially in the midst budget negotiations, Rochelle Davis expressed our concern about linking district policy to state policy around physical education during her testimony at the board meeting. At the meeting, Chief Health Officer Ken Fox reaffirmed the district’s commitment to daily PE. Martha Ramirez, a parent leader and Local School Council member from Jungman Elementary, and Roger Cooley from the Chicago Food Policy Action Council also testified during the public comment period of the board meeting.
We’re excited to see new inclusions in the wellness policy that will help strengthen the district’s commitment to the health and wellness of its students. In order to ensure effective policy implementation at the school level and that all schools have the tools, resources and support to create healthy environments, we developed wellness policy recommendations to CPS and the Board of Education. The recommendations address ways to remove structural barriers, propose how to effectively integrate health and wellness policy goals into accountability measures and recommend additional opportunities to support student health and wellness.
A strong wellness policy and its implementation in CPS is critical to the future of our city’s children. You can express your support for a strong wellness policy implementation by signing on to our recommendations.