Policy-writing guide

Guide for writing out-of-school-time wellness policies

Access a PDF version of this policy-writing guide. You can also download the following Microsoft Word templates for policy letters: Sample Family Letters, OSNAP Partner Letter: Screen time, and OSNAP Partner Letter: Snacks.

How policies facilitate programs’ plans to promote health

Setting down written policies about nutrition, physical activity, and screen time is an important action step for out-of-school programs that are trying to promote children’s health.

Written policies help make it absolutely clear to program administrators, staff, parents, and children what the program is supposed to do to support healthy behaviors.

The best place to put policies is in staff, parent/family, or general handbooks, since these documents clearly lay out program rules. Written policies can also be communicated to staff and parents in training materials or newsletters.

Out-of-school programs often rely on spoken or informal, unwritten policies to determine practice. While these are important, formal written policies have several advantages:

First, having a written policy ensures that everyone is aware of what is expected from them and what they can expect from the program, while spoken or informal policies may not ever get communicated to some people.

Second, having a written policy ensures that the program policies are very clear and makes it less likely that a staff member or parent will misunderstand the program’s goals and practices.

Third, a written policy helps hold program staff, parents, and children accountable for following the program’s rules, compared to an informal policy, which is more difficult to enforce.

Fourth, written policies help ensure that policies are sustainable over time. If an administrator or staff member with important knowledge about practices leaves the program, future staff members will know how to keep children healthy based on the written policies.

Purpose of this guide and how to use it

This guide provides suggestions for language that can be directly inserted into parent or family handbooks, staff handbooks, general program handbooks, letters to families, staff training materials, or even schedules and menus.

The suggested language in this guide lays out policies that match with OSNAP goals for healthy foods and beverages, increased physical activity, and reduced screen time in afterschool and other out- of- school- time programs, like summer camps. When possible, several options have been provided for each goal so that you can choose language that best fits your individual program.

Each piece of policy language is followed by an explanation of how practices would have to change to implement the policy. This is so that the implications of including each policy are very clear.

While the language in this guide can, of course, be changed, carefully think about what your changes might mean for practice. For example, a policy stating that parents should stop sending in sugary drinks is weaker than a policy stating that parents must stop sending them in. Using “should” means that following the policy is encouraged, but not required, while using “must” means that the policy is a hard-and-fast rule.

Most of the pieces of policy language in this guide have already been used with out-of-school programs, so we know they work. Including these policies will help ensure that your program meets the goals and sticks with them in the future.

On the menu to your left, you can look through policy language that specifically supports each of the OSNAP goals by clicking on any of the links below the Policy-writing guide.

Supplementary language for other policies that support healthy eating, increased physical activity, and reduced screen time, but are not explicit OSNAP goals (like prohibiting vending machine use or discipline approaches that take away active time), are also included. You can access these resources by clicking on the links that begin with the word “Supplement” on the menu to the left.