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Nutrition & Physical Activity

School Nutrition and Physical Activity

On an average day, most children spend about seven hours at school, where they may eat nearly half of their daily calories and spend most of their time sitting at a desk. Creating a healthy school environment with nutritious food and opportunities for physical activity has many benefits. For example, long periods of sedentary time can have harmful effects on children’s physical health, mental health, learning, and development. Regular participation in physical activity has been found to result in higher academic achievement, fewer behavior issues, better self-regulation, and stronger collaboration and conflict-resolution skills among students. Physical activity can also complement social-emotional learning by providing a way for children to connect with others, practice empathy, and reduce stress. Many opportunities exist to enhance a school’s physical activity and nutrition environment such as through movement breaks, healthy vending machines, hands-on games as a class reward, and educator wellness initiatives.

View the Healthy Schools Toolkit
students raising hand

Indiana Healthy Schools Toolkit

The Indiana Healthy Schools Toolkit outlines strategic policies and environmental supports to provide students and staff with opportunities to eat healthy and be physically active. This toolkit is designed to strengthen the efforts of the school wellness policy and promote the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model. The toolkit consists of seven major components:

  • Overview: WSCC Model, Whole Child Tenets, & Indiana School Wellness Policy on Physical Activity and Nutrition
  • Chapter 1: School Wellness Council
  • Chapter 2: Physical Activity
  • Chapter 3: Nutrition
  • Chapter 4: Family Involvement and Community Engagement
  • Chapter 5: Equity
  • Chapter 6: Evaluation

School Nutrition

IDOE’s Division of School and Community Nutrition is the administering state agency in Indiana for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Child Nutrition Programs. These programs include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs.

Farm to Schoolindiana grown

Indiana schools are responsible for the care and education of nearly 1.2 million students each year. Children spend nearly half their waking hours and consume more than half of their daily food at school. Because of this, schools are the best place to help students learn to make healthy choices that will last a lifetime. Through access to local foods and education, we can improve the health of children while creating strong local economies and engaged communities.

IDOH was the recipient of the 2018 USDA Farm to School grant, establishing the Indiana Grown for Schools Network, the Indiana Grown for Schools website, and an Indiana-specific Buyer Guide to find local producers when buying for schools. Building on this momentum, IDOH was awarded the 2020 USDA Farm to School grant, focusing on increasing school-level capacity to procure and prepare local food for

Over the last three years, the network has produced four toolkits, following the nationally recognized pillars of farm-to-school, created a Harvest of the Month database of materials, bolstered the website user experience, and launched a webinar series on informative farm-to-school topics. View for more information and to access resources.

Physical Activity/Education Resources

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP): The Indiana Department of Health is working to create these programs throughout the state. CSPAP is a multi-component approach by which school districts and schools use all opportunities for students to be physically active, meet the nationally recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day and develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime. Four presentations on the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program can be accessed here:

CSPAP Additional Resources

INSHAPE: A professional education association with resources for teachers, administrators, researchers, coaches, college students and other professionals who are dedicated to the promotion of quality health, physical education, sport, dance and fitness in public and private schools, colleges, universities and community agencies throughout Indiana.

Active School Environments: Go to this resource to find out how physical activity results in physical, social, emotional and academic benefits.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is an essential resource for health professionals and policymakers as they design and implement physical activity programs, policies and promotion initiatives. It provides information that helps Americans make healthy choices for themselves and their families and discusses evidence-based, community-level interventions that can make being physically active the easy choice in all the places where people live, learn, work and play.

Highlights: ChildrenAdults 

Strategies for Classroom Physical Activity: This document describes 10 evidence-based strategies for promoting and planning for classroom physical activity.

Springboard to Active Schools: Provides resources and tools for schools and communities to advocate for 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Playworks is an organization that provides technical assistance and trainings to schools and youth programs to help them create inclusive recess and play environments. Please see their highlighted resources linked below! playworks

Wellness Policy Evaluationswellsat

The Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) offers year-round reviews of corporation wellness policies. School districts can submit their corporation’s wellness policy to DNPA for review. DNPA utilizes the WellSAT 3.0 Quantitative Assessment Tool to score and improve the local School Wellness Policy and then will schedule a consultation meeting to review results and match school districts with support and resources!

Healthy Schools Grant

We are not accepting applications at this time. The three-year Indiana Healthy Schools Grant provides funding for Local Education Agencies (school districts/corporations and charter schools) that participate in the National School Lunch Program to create supportive nutrition and physical activity environments for all students, while also engaging staff and the greater community. This grant is managed by the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Youth Adolescent Physical Activity (YAPA) Grant

Application Form

Applications for the 2024-2025 grant cycle are now being accepted. Deadline to apply is May 17. The one-year YAPA grant is focused on providing physical activity and physical education opportunities for youth and adolescents, 6-17 years of age (K-12) in the classroom, school, and before or after school program settings. We will consider ideas that will best fit your community or organization to successfully improve the overall health of youth and adolescents. Some examples would be utilizing funds for professional development for staff, creating and implementing a sustainable physical activity program, or improving an existing program. This grant is managed by the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Emma Smythe
Youth Physical Activity Coordinator, DNPA
(317) 233-8169
Contact for Physical Activity in Children

Jenna Sperry
School Health Coordinator, DNPA
(317) 233-7580
Contact for School Wellness

Brianna Goode
Farm to School Coordinator, DNPA
(317) 232-0456
Contact for Farm to School