USDA and School Wellness Information


SWITCH was developed to help schools comply with federal requirements for school wellness. The most rigorous and important requirement for schools is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which stipulates what schools must do to continue to obtain support to cover ‘free and reduced’ cost meals for students. The USDA “Final Rule” mandate required formalized wellness policies and programming in order to ensure that schools were also providing healthy environments for students.

The USDA funded the ISU SWITCH initiative because it provided a way to help schools build capacity for school wellness programming. Through SWITCH, schools learn how to plan, build and evaluate school wellness programming. The process provides clear documentation of ongoing efforts to create and sustain a healthy environment for students in schools. Specific components designed to meet the various requirements are outlined below:

  • Public Involvement: SWITCH guides schools through a process that involves and engages parents, students, teachers and school officials in collective action.  
  • Nutrition Guidelines: SWITCH includes a Lunchroom Module based on the USDA ‘Smarter Lunchroom’ program to help schools operationalize nutrition guidelines.
  • Nutrition Education and Promotion: SWITCH features integrated lesson plans for classroom education that promote knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyles in students.
  • Physical Education and Physical Activity: SWITCH provides an integrated concepts-based PE lessons that help promote knowledge through movement experiences.
  • Public Notification: SWITCH reports from the various audit tools helps schools meet requirements for public involvement and notification. Schools receive a comprehensive report based on the School Wellness Environment Profile (SWEP) as well as a summary of student behaviors through the Youth Activity Profile (YAP).
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: SWITCH employs ‘continuous quality improvement’ approaches that are designed to build capacity for sustained programming over time.


See the associated links for more information about the USDA mandate and the basis for the behavioral targets in SWITCH.