Why was the WellSAT Updated?

With the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), the USDA set new standards for school nutrition and wellness policies. WellSAT 2.0 reflects new USDA school food requirements and current best practices in all areas of school wellness.

WellSAT 2.0: What’s new?

Updates address:

  • Changes to the USDA National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program nutrition requirements (that went into effect July 2012 and July 2013, respectively).
  • Nutrition standards for competitive foods/foods sold to students outside of school meals, referred to as Smart Snacks standards (that went into effect July 2014).
  • Best practices in the areas of food marketing, physical education and physical activity in schools
  • More extensive monitoring and evaluation of compliance with school wellness policies


Does the WellSAT 2.0 measure wellness policy implementation?

No, the WellSAT 2.0 measures the quality of written wellness policies only. The Rudd Center's WellSAT-i measures implementation. The WellSAT-i is currently a working draft. If you are interested in using the tool contact Margaret Read at margaret.read@uconn.edu to inquire about costs and scheduling.


Why are my WellSAT 2.0 scores lower than my WellSAT scores?

National attention to school wellness has grown tremendously since the launch of the original WellSAT in 2010 and schools are being held to a higher standard than ever before. With the HHFKA the nation stepped up its commitment to safeguarding the health of school children. The WellSAT 2.0 reflects new USDA school food requirements and current best practices in all areas of school wellness. Don’t be surprised if you start off with lower scores than you achieved working with the old WellSAT—expectations are higher now and we all have a lot of work to do!


How was the original WellSAT developed?

The WellSAT was developed by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, in consultation with an advisory board comprising experts in nutrition, physical activity, education, public policy and public health. The WellSAT is an abbreviated version of the 96-item Comprehensive Coding System to Measure the Quality of School Wellness Policies. This tool was developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program working group.  Membership included Marlene Schwartz, PhD (Connecticut), Anne Lund, RD and Mollie Greves Grow, MD (Washington), Elaine McDonnell, MS, RD and Claudia Probart, PhD, RD (Pennsylvania), and Anne Samuelson, MPH and Leslie Lytle, PhD, RD (Minnesota). Survey development methods for this tool have been published. A printable copy of the original WellSAT tool is available here

Who should complete this assessment?

  • District level school officials
  • Members of School Wellness Advisory Boards or committees, particularly those charged with evaluation responsibilities
  • Public health professionals
  • Researchers
  • School-level officials, provided they have a clear understanding that the tool is to be used for assessment of district, rather than school-level wellness policies.

Why do I need to pay attention to "rating guidance"?

In order to generate meaningful information about the quality of your district wellness policy, it is strongly recommended that new users read "How to Rate Policy Statements" before completing the assessment. It is also recommended that you view the question-specific guidance provided to you by clicking on the ? button next to each question. Here you will find examples of wellness policy statements and how they should be scored.

Why should I be familiar with federal and state laws relevant to school wellness policies?

State and federal law may regulate items in this assessment tool.  A positive district wellness policy assessment using this tool does not guarantee that your school district is in compliance with all state laws.  We recommend a thorough review of your state’s laws and regulations (see NASBE for state laws pertaining to wellness). Many times school districts are unaware of or unclear about some aspects of the law, and this is reflected in their policies. Here we provide examples of common errors.

Example statement from a Connecticut policy: "Schools shall offer low-fat (1%) and fat-free milk."

Reason this is not in complete compliance with CT law:  In the absence of further statements about milk, this policy would not indicate that milk will meet the specific requirements of state statute (CGS 10-221q), which specify that milk must contain no more than 4 grams of sugar per ounce and no artificial sweeteners, and is sold in portion sizes no larger than 12 fluid ounces.

What is a "competitive food?"

Section 3 addresses policies around "competitive foods."  Competitive foods are foods SOLD outside of USDA school meals. This includes food and beverages sold a la carte in the cafeteria, from vending machines or school stores and any other sources on school premises.   

How long will this assessment take me?

First time users can expect to spend approximately 45 minutes scoring a wellness policy; however, users who score more than one policy and become familiar with scoring instructions typically complete the survey in approximately 30 minutes.   

Will the survey "time out" if I take a break?

The assessment "times out" after leaving it inactive for one hour; however, your work will not be lost.  If your assessment has timed out, you will need to sign in again.  

Can I exit the survey and come back to it another time?

Yes! When you sign in to return to an existing survey, you will be taken to the page where you left off.

How can I use the results of this assessment?

Use this tool to improve your district's district wellness policy!  You will receive a personalized "scorecard" containing details of how well you scored on each section of the survey.  You will be directed to resources (links) that will help you work on areas that are weak.