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Wellmark Foundation grant funds awarded to South Dakota State University

Grant, chosen from over 130 requests, will fund School Wellness Policies: Assisting School Districts to Identify and Overcome Barriers to Implementation

July 25, 2013

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(Brookings, South Dakota) – South Dakota State University has received a $20,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation to implement a statewide project called the School Wellness Policies: Assisting School Districts to Identify and Overcome Barriers to Implementation. Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year all educational facilities that received federal funding as part of the National School Lunch Program were required to develop and implement a school wellness policy. However, many school districts are without a system to evaluate the quality of these policies, the ability of the school system to implement them, or the facilitators and barriers to policy implementation.

The goal of the project led by SDSU is to evaluate school wellness policies across the state of South Dakota and gather information about the barriers schools face to writing and implementing school wellness policies.  The data will then be used to identify needs and help schools overcome those barriers in order to foster wellness and prevent childhood obesity within the educational environment.

School Wellness Policies: Assisting School Districts to Identify and Overcome Barriers to Implementation
”School wellness policies provide an excellent avenue through which we can help create school environments that foster healthy eating and physical activity in our children” said project director Dr. Jessica Meendering. Meendering and her graduate students, Emily Powell and Tara Pratt, worked collaboratively with the South Dakota Department of Education to gather school wellness policies from public schools across state and evaluate them for their strength and comprehensiveness. The research team also evaluated implementation status and barriers to implementation perceived by school administrators.

The information will be used to create strategies to assist schools in creating strong wellness policies and overcoming policy implementation barriers. “We are really grateful for the opportunity to do this work and believe that South Dakota can and should be a leader in creating and implementing effective school wellness policies that meet the national guidelines”, said Meendering. 

Grant one of only ten selected
The Wellmark Foundation is a non-profit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans and their communities. Through its 2012 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the Foundation received 135 grant requests seeking support for smaller community health projects. This grant award to South Dakota State University represents one of ten competitively awarded grants to establish pilot efforts or expand health initiatives throughout Iowa and South Dakota.

The Wellmark Foundation is proud to award a cumulative total of over $190,000 to these ten grant recipients to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.

“We are excited to support the project to assess school wellness policies,” says Matt McGarvey, director of the Wellmark Foundation. “South Dakota State University has created an effective assessment system to help ensure school wellness policies statewide are able to function as intended. This project will span for just two years, but we believe it will have a positive effect on childhood wellness in the scholastic environment for years to come.”

South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant university as well as its largest, most comprehensive institution of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from six different colleges representing more than 175 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 29 master’s degree programs, 12 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at university centers in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through SDSU Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.

Jessica Meendering is an Associate Professor and serves as the program coordinator for the Exercise Science program in the Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences. The Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences is located within the College of Education and Human Sciences. 

For more information on the School Wellness Policies: Assisting School Districts to Identify and Overcome Barriers to Implementation project, contact Jessica Meendering at 605-688-5949 or For more information regarding the Wellmark Foundation and its grant programs, visit


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