Wellness Committee Guide
A school wellness committee is an advisory group tasked with strengthening the way a school addresses the health and wellbeing of all students. In Kansas, districts are required to implement wellness policies that call for nutrition, student wellness and physical activity education and programming.
But there is always more to accomplish. By forming or joining a wellness committee, you can be the spark that influences healthy changes for Kansas kids.
These committees – usually between six and 12 in size – can include anyone who has an interest in student health, including school leaders, family and community members and students, and can be formed at the district or individual school level. They typically address the health environment of a school, identify concerns and make recommendations for positive improvements. In Kansas, wellness policies and committees aim to address four critical categories: nutrition, nutrition education and promotion, physical activity and integrated school wellness.
This guide will help outline the basics for how to start a conversation around your school’s wellness committee, how you can play a supportive role and how to keep your committee active and effective.
How to Build a School Wellness Committee
- Find and read your district’s policy. These will include any existing guidelines for your individual school. And pay attention to the policy language. Does it “suggest,” “encourage,” “recommend” or say “schools may…”? Or is it stronger: “schools will…”, “schools must…” etc.
- Ask questions. Who wrote the policy? When was it developed, and has it ever been evaluated? Who is responsible for its implementation? Are teachers and parents aware of the policy or guidelines? Are the policy goals included in the School Improvement Plan?
- Start a conversation. Use the various resources provided on this website, such as flyers and letters, to encourage discussion between parents and school leaders about the link between health and academic success in school – and the opportunities for cross-collaboration to improve both.
- Build or join a committee. Think about recruiting others to join your school wellness committee. Try reaching out to other school leaders, community members and parents, who may be interested in encouraging healthy lifestyles during the school day.
- Think creatively. Use the policy or school guidelines as a platform for the projects you want to implement. Talk about the wellness policy goals that your project will help to meet when you’re looking for support.
- Select goals and establish a shared vision and mission. Figure out your short- and long-term goals. Spend time defining a collective vision and mission for the committee. Develop those priorities into an action plan.
- Create a presence. With the support of school leaders and representatives, begin to build awareness of your efforts. By simply requesting to be a part of a school event, you can begin to gather the support and momentum within the school community that’s crucial for driving change.
How to Continue Making a Difference
- Put in the time. Time is often the biggest barrier to driving change. Be willing to devote time to wellness committee meetings and activities. And be clear on how much time you can contribute.
- Involve your community. Include the entire school community in your efforts to improve wellness. Consider your community’s diversity. Reach out to those that have the greatest ability to network and persuade others to contribute, as well as those whose voices are not always heard.
- Stick to the plan. Build meetings around the critical steps of your action plan to keep members focused. Create and refer to an agenda or meeting checklist to be the most productive.
- Be consistent. Establish roles and expectations within the team. Encourage continuous, on-time work towards your established goals.
- Promote the policy and your school’s wellness practices. Offer to develop materials to create community awareness and buy-in on the policy itself as well as your school’s wellness initiatives. Use signage, brochures, newsletter articles and website promotions.
- Work with school staff. School leaders aren’t the only ones who can help. Ask teachers, food service staff and other staff members to share ideas for engaging students in efforts to encourage healthier lifestyles in and out of school.
- Collaborate. Consider how both school leaders and families can affect healthy classroom messages and behaviors. Consider organizing a school wellness workshop with leaders to better inform your peers.
- Advocate for staff wellness programs. School leaders are important role models for establishing healthy habits.
- Celebrate success. Sharing and celebrating a win builds team bonding. Take the time in meetings to acknowledge members’ contributions towards milestones or goals.