NYC Public Schools

Citywide Wellness Policy


New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) is committed to working with schools, families, and the community to ensure that all students graduate knowing how to take care of their minds, their bodies, and those around them. For students to have the opportunity to achieve personal, academic, developmental, and social success, they need positive, supportive, and health-promoting learning environments at every level, in every setting, throughout the school year. The NYC DOE is also committed to creating and supporting learning environments that reflect the diversity of New York City. We believe all students benefit from diverse and inclusive schools and classrooms. We strive to welcome and support all students, families, and school staff. Check out Diversity in Our Schools for more information. 

Research shows that two components, good nutrition and physical activity before, during, and after the school day, are strongly correlated with positive student outcomes. For example, student participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) School Breakfast Program is associated with higher grades and standardized test scores, lower rates of absenteeism, and better performance on cognitive tasks. Conversely, less-than-adequate consumption of specific foods, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, is associated with lower grades among students. In addition, students who are physically active—through active transportation (e.g., walking and biking) to and from school; recess, physical activity breaks, high-quality physical education, and extracurricular activities—do better academically.

As a school system that participates in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, the NYC DOE is required to have a written local school wellness policy that promotes the health of students and addresses the challenges related to childhood obesity.

The NYC DOE Citywide Wellness Policy ("Wellness Policy") outlines the DOE’s approach to ensuring schools can provide students with physical and health education instruction, as well as environments and opportunities that allow all students to practice healthy behaviors throughout the school day with minimal commercial distractions. Specifically, this Wellness Policy establishes goals and procedures to ensure that:

  • Students have quality physical education that meets State requirements, and opportunities to be physically active before, during, and/or after school;
  • Students receive comprehensive health education that helps them develop the knowledge and skills to practice lifelong healthy behaviors;
  • Students learn how to access the health information and services available to them in and outside of school settings;
  • Students have access to healthy foods during the school day—through both reimbursable school meals and other foods available throughout the school campus—in accordance with federal and New York State nutrition standards;
  • Food and beverages sold or served at school meet strict nutrition standards;
  • School meals provide students with access to a variety of affordable, nutritious, and appealing foods that meet their health and nutritional needs;
  • NYC DOE participates in available federal school meal programs (including the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program [including after-school snacks], Summer Food Service Program, Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program [including suppers]);
  • Schools engage in nutrition and physical activity promotion and other activities that promote student wellness;
  • The community is engaged in supporting the work of the NYC DOE in creating continuity between school and other settings for students and staff to practice lifelong healthy habits; and,
  • Central offices coordinate management, oversight, implementation, communication about, and monitoring of the policy and its established goals and objectives.

The Citywide Wellness Policy applies to all New York City Department of Education students, staff, and public schools.

The Wellness Policy brings together content and service areas recommended in ASCD the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, an expansion and update of the Coordinated School Health (CSH) approach. The Office of School Wellness Programs in the Community Supports and Wellness unit of the Division of School Leadership drafted the policy in collaboration with other programs, initiatives, offices, and agencies, with the goal of ensuring that schools and the community have a more cohesive policy that clearly defines federal, State, and local mandates and recommendations associated with each area.

  • Physical Education and Physical Activity
  • Comprehensive Health Education, including Nutrition Education
  • Health Services
  • School Food and Nutrition Promotion
  • Other Activities that Promote Wellness

To inform the current policy, a Wellness Policy Review Committee, with two subcommittees focused on Physical Education/Activity and Comprehensive Health Education, convened in January 2017 and consulted to identify the New York City school community’s perspectives within the context of State requirements and evidence-based national recommendations. Limited technical updates for accuracy and clarity were made to the policy in Winter/Spring 2021-2022, with a brief public comment period shared with and open to partners in January and February 2022. Substantive policy changes will include a more robust process with broader community feedback (see II. Governance).

This comprehensive Wellness Policy seeks to advance our strategic aims to:

  • Establish physical and health education as required, core academic subjects essential to student achievement;
  • Improve coordination and build understanding across offices, departments, agencies and schools;
  • Highlight public, school-level reporting data that establishes levels of compliance with various provisions; and
  • Build sustainability.


Citywide Wellness Advisory Council: Roles and Membership

The Office of School Wellness Programs will convene a representative Citywide Wellness Advisory Council (“Advisory Council”) periodically to advise on and advocate for building public support for Physical Education, Health Education and other inter-related wellness, food and sustainability policies, programs and practices. The Advisory Council, formerly the District Wellness Advisory Council, will focus on promotion, implementation, and review of the Wellness Policy.

Advisory Council membership is intended to represent all school levels (elementary and secondary schools) and primarily should include parents and caregivers as well as students, physical education teachers, health education teachers, School Wellness Council champions, and other school health, mental health, social services, dining, and sustainability staff. Representatives from the NYC DOE Offices of School Wellness Programs, Food and Nutrition Services (e.g., nutrition director), Sustainability and other DOE offices along with colleagues at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; school administrators (e.g., Superintendents, principals), and other community partners and stakeholders will be invited to participate. The Advisory Council shall consist of members who are representative and inclusive of the New York City school community.

School Wellness Councils

All New York City public schools are strongly encouraged to establish and/or sustain a School Wellness Council. A School Wellness Council acts as an advisory team to the School Leadership Team and the principal in order to: review and support implementation of Citywide and local school-level wellness policies; assess the wellness of the school environment using the School Wellness Scorecard in the Wellness Council Manager (requires DOE login) on the Wellness Hub (requires DOE login); and create and implement action plans as a part of school-wide wellness initiatives (e.g., physical activity programs, healthy fundraisers, non-food celebrations, and rewards) and/or to support instructional goals in Comprehensive Education Plans. School Wellness Councils should communicate wellness-related policies annually so that all staff, parents, and students are aware of and follow policy guidelines. Final responsibility for School Wellness Council governance and policy implementation rests with the principal.

NYC Department of Education Leadership

The Senior Leadership Team of the Office of School Wellness Programs within the Office of Community Supports and Wellness unit of the Division of School Leadership will convene the Advisory Council and facilitate the development of and updates to the wellness policy related to physical and health education, as well as other wellness-related programming. They will coordinate with Office of Food and Nutrition Services and School Health leadership on updating service-related portions of the policy, with leadership of those respective offices being responsible for accountability requirements of their areas. The Office of Academic Policy and Systems in the Division of Teaching and Learning will oversee the collection and reporting of academic data pertaining to physical and health education, and the communication of the associated academic policies. The Office of Compliance Services will share the appropriate reports with schools, Superintendents, and citywide Central offices as part of the NYC DOE’s Compliance Checklist. Public data on physical and health education provision pursuant to City Council Legislation is available at the NYC OpenData website.

The name(s), title(s), and contact information of this/these individual(s) are:

OfficeName Title Email Address
Office of School Wellness ProgramsDespina ZaharakisSenior Executive
Office of School Wellness ProgramsAlice GoodmanSenior Director of Policy &
Office of Food and Nutrition ServicesChristopher TricaricoSenior Executive Director

Office of School HealthTracey AgertonAssistant
Office of Academic Policy and Systems Katie HansenExecutive
Office of Compliance ServicesArnold AliExecutive

Operationalizing the Citywide Wellness Policy

Implementation Plan

In each school, the principal or designee will ensure compliance with instructional components of the Wellness Policy. Principals are supervised by Superintendents, who are charged with ensuring that principals provide robust and compliant instructional agendas for their schools, while fielding feedback from families and communities about the provision of instruction. Superintendent and Central staff provide schools with resources for understanding and applying instructional requirements outlined in grade-specific academic policy guides. Principals or designees also will ensure that Office of Food and Nutrition Services requirements (e.g., Chancellor’s Regulation A-812) and health services requirements are met, where applicable, and each school will report operational compliance to the appropriate NYC DOE manager. In addition, the Office of Food and Nutrition Services will provide the following services:

  • Work with the local health department, community advocacy organizations, and the educational community to assess and promote student acceptance of the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program offerings.
  • Continue to use USDA-approved software to monitor compliance of cycle menus and snack programs with federal, State, and local nutritional policies and standards.
  • Randomly collect, analyze, and evaluate Menu items for compliance with Office of Food and Nutrition Services specifications.
  • Continue to participate in audits and reviews by local, State and federal agencies.

The Office of School Wellness Programs will provide schools with guidance, resources, and programs to support physical and health education, physical activity, and overall school wellness initiatives, including the development of school-based action plans and School Wellness Councils. The NYC DOE recommends that schools use the Wellness Council Manager on the Wellness Hub to register their School Wellness Council, complete the School Wellness Scorecard, and develop goals and, if applicable, spending proposal(s) in order to create an action plan that fosters implementation and connects schools to resources and information.


Central NYC DOE offices (e.g., Academic Policy, Compliance, Food and Nutrition Services, School Wellness Programs) will retain records to document compliance with the requirements of the wellness policy on the NYC DOE’s InfoHub or digital storage network as appropriate. Documentation maintained will include but not be limited to:

  • The written Wellness Policy;
  • Documentation demonstrating compliance with community involvement requirements, including (1) efforts to actively solicit Advisory Council membership from the required stakeholder groups; and (2) these groups’ participation in the development, implementation, and periodic review and update of the Wellness Policy;
  • Annual, school-level physical education and health education progress reports (pursuant to City Council Legislation)
  • Documentation of the triennial progress assessment (see below) of the Wellness Policy for each school under its jurisdiction;
  • Documentation demonstrating compliance with public notification requirements, including: (1) methods by which the wellness policy, annual progress reports, and triennial assessments are made available to the public; and (2) efforts to actively notify families about the availability of the Wellness Policy.

In addition, students’ academic programs and outcomes are captured in the NYC DOE’s official data systems of records, such as the Student Transcript and Academic Reporting System (STARS). Data in these systems also reflect schools’ alignment to the New York State and New York City academic policies pertaining to physical education and health. STARS is managed by the NYC DOE's Office of Academic Policy and Systems.

Annual Progress Reports

The NYC DOE, and to the extent possible, in collaboration with the Advisory Council, will compile, review, and publish an annual report to share basic information about the wellness policy and report on the NYC DOE’s overall progress implementing wellness goals. This annual report will be published around the same time each year in the Spring, and will aggregate available Citywide school-level data for the prior school year. This report will include but not be limited to:

  • The website address for the Wellness Policy and/or how the public can receive/access a copy of the Wellness Policy;
  • A narrative about the City’s progress in meeting the Wellness Policy goals;
  • Highlights of school and/or City events or activities related to Wellness Policy implementation, if possible;
  • The name and position title of the designated NYC DOE policy leader(s) identified in Section I; and
  • Information on how individuals and the public can get involved with the school's wellness efforts.

The annual report will be available in ten languages on the NYC DOE website.

Triennial Progress Assessments

At least once every three years, coordinating Central-level offices will evaluate the Wellness Policy to assess Citywide implementation, including the extent to which schools under the jurisdiction of the NYC DOE are in compliance with the Wellness Policy, and provide a description of the progress made in attaining the goals of the Wellness Policy. The person responsible for managing the triennial assessment is Despina Zaharakis, Office of School Wellness Programs Senior Executive Director, . The triennial progress report will be made available to the public on the NYC DOE website.

Revisions and Updating the Policy

The NYC DOE will update or modify the Wellness Policy based on a review of the annual reports and triennial assessments with recommendations from the Advisory Council, and/or as NYC DOE priorities shift, community needs change, wellness goals are met, new health science, information, and technology emerge, and new federal or State guidance or standards are issued. The Wellness Policy will be assessed and updated as indicated at least every three years, following the triennial assessment. 

Community Involvement, Outreach, and Communications

The NYC DOE is committed to being responsive to community input, which begins with awareness of the Wellness Policy. The NYC DOE will actively communicate ways in which representatives of the Citywide Wellness Advisory Council and others can participate in the periodic review and recommendation process for the Wellness Policy. The NYC DOE will use electronic mechanisms, such as email or notices displayed on the NYC DOE website, to ensure that all families are actively notified of the content of, implementation of, and updates to the Wellness Policy, as well as how to get involved and support the Wellness Policy. The NYC DOE will also use these mechanisms to inform the community about the availability of the annual and triennial reports. The NYC DOE will ensure that communications are culturally and linguistically appropriate to the community and accomplished through means similar to other ways that the district and individual schools communicate other important school information to parents and caregivers.

The NYC DOE will actively notify the public about the content of or any updates to the Wellness Policy annually, at a minimum. To receive notifications and learn more about wellness-related school programs and practices, subscribe to School Wellness Weekly and follow us on Twitter. Visit the Connect With School Wellness Programs page and the DOE Wellness Policy Annual Reports page

Physical Education and Physical Activity

Physical Education

Physical education (PE) class is an essential component of educating the whole child. In PE, students learn about their bodies, how to take care of them, and how to move, as well as the skills to engage in lifelong healthy habits. Physical Education is an academic subject that students need and deserve in order to maintain focus in school and develop healthy habits for a lifetime. The NYC DOE must provide students with physical education according to New York State Education Law 803, and under rules set out in Commissioner’s Regulations 135. According to New York State Commissioner’s Regulations Part 135.4, all NYC DOE schools must provide students in grades K–12 with an instructional physical education program aligned to academic learning standards, in every grade, and PE programs should meet or exceed the specified instructional time and frequency requirements. NYC DOE provides a K-12 Physical Education Scope and Sequence to guide schools in providing an age-appropriate, sequential PE curriculum for all students K-12. PE Scope and Sequence documents are available on WeTeachNYC for Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12

Staffing: Every school serving elementary school grades is required by State regulations to have at least one PE-certified teacher. Per NYS Commissioner’s Regulation 135.4, a NYC DOE classroom teacher may provide instruction under the guidance of a certified PE teacher in elementary school. In middle and high schools, PE must be provided by a certified PE teacher. The NYC DOE highly recommends that all elementary PE be taught by a PE-certified, licensed teacher.

Also, in accordance with the New York State Concussion Management and Awareness Act, all PE teachers and coaches must complete concussion training every two years. For details and instructions, see the Concussion Training and Verification Information page (requires DOE login).

Student Participation: All students will be provided equal opportunity to participate in physical education classes. Schools will make appropriate accommodations to allow for equitable participation for all students, and will adapt physical education classes and equipment as necessary. Per State regulation, waivers, exemptions, or substitutions for physical education classes are not permissible.

School-Level Requirements

In 3-K and pre-K programs

  • Students should have opportunities for appropriate movement, health, and physical education, although PE is not required by New York State for these programs.

In elementary schools

  • All elementary students will receive physical education according to State regulations, which specify that students in grades K-5 participate in PE for at least 120 minutes per week:
    • Students in grades K-3 participate in PE on a daily basis.
    • Students in grades 4-5 participate in PE no less than three times per week. For K-6, K-8, and K-12 schools, sixth graders conform to requirements for grades 4 and 5.

To assist elementary schools with meeting time and frequency requirements, and to make classrooms an active learning environment, the City offers training and support for Move-to-Improve, NYC DOE’s classroom-based physical activity program. Move-to-Improve helps elementary school teachers provide 10-minute activities that support New York State Physical Education (PE) Standards integrated with content-area learning standards. Elementary schools with a comprehensive PE program, led by a certified or designated PE teacher, may become a Move-to-Improve All-Star school by training at least 85% of their eligible teachers in the program and implementing Move-to-Improve as a regular part of the school day. All-Star schools are permitted to use up to 40 minutes per week and 5 days per week of Move-to-Improve activities during classroom instructional time to supplement their existing PE program and help meet the 120 minutes of required PE.

In middle schools

  • State regulations require that students receive PE every year:
    • Students in grades 6-8 participate in PE every semester for 90 minutes per week or the equivalent, for a total of 27 hours per semester.

In high schools

  • Four PE credits are required for graduation. State regulations require that:
    • In a daily model, students in grades 9-12 have PE class daily and participate for a minimum of 180 minutes per week for seven semesters; or
    • In a traditional model, students receive PE for a minimum of 90 minutes per week in every term, scheduled three periods per week in one semester and two periods per week in the other semester (3/2) or distributed in other patterns for comparable time.

The City’s physical education program promotes physical fitness through individualized assessments via NYC FITNESSGRAM, which is required for all eligible students K-12 and uses criterion-based reporting for each student. Parents and caregivers can access their student’s annual NYC FITNESSGRAM report on the NYC Schools Account.

Physical Activity

Children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Along with physical education, a substantial percentage of students’ physical activity can be provided through school activities, including classroom-based physical activity, recess, active transportation to school, and out-of-school time activities. The NYC DOE is committed to promoting and supporting these opportunities. Schools will ensure that these activity opportunities are in addition to, and not as a substitute for, physical education (addressed in “Physical Education” subsection above).

The NYC DOE recognizes that students are more attentive and ready to learn when they have periodic breaks to be physically active or stretch. Accordingly, the NYC DOE also recommends that teachers provide short (3-5 minute) physical activity breaks to students during and between classroom time. Physical activity breaks should complement, not substitute for physical education class, recess, and/or class transition periods. Resources and ideas for implementing regular, physical activity breaks are available through USDA and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Physical activity during the school day (including but not limited to recess, physical activity breaks, or physical education) will not be withheld as punishment for any reason, nor will it be used as a punishment for any reason. This does not include participation in out-of-school activities or school sports teams, which may have specific rules and requirements for participation.

Recess (Elementary): The NYC DOE strongly recommends that all elementary schools offer at least 20 minutes of recess on all or most days during the school year, and encourages schools to develop a recess plan to maximize this time for children’s health and well-being. Also, recess should not be used for mealtime, as schools should schedule lunch periods so that students have at least 20 minutes to eat their lunches.

Per State regulations, recess may not count toward the physical education requirements, but should complement, not substitute for, physical education class. Recess monitors or teachers should encourage students to be active, and they can be powerful role models by being physically active alongside the students whenever feasible. Because children benefit from vigorous exercise, they should be given the opportunity to play outside whenever possible. (See Outdoor Activity section below for more information). The NYC DOE recommends that in the event a school must conduct indoor recess, teachers and staff should develop and follow an indoor recess plan that promotes physical activity for students, to the extent practicable. Recess recommendations and resources are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SHAPE America.

Before- and After-School Programs: The NYC DOE offers opportunities for students to participate in physical activity before and/or after the school day through a variety of programs, including: CHAMPS Sports and Fitness Programs (elementary and middle school), Public School Athletic League (PSAL) programs (high school), School Wellness Council grant-funded activities, and partnerships with NYC DOE affiliated programs.

Coaching staff are required to meet additional job prerequisites as identified by NYS and local policies, including and not limited to Automated External Defibrillator (AED)/ Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification, First Aid training, and biannual training on concussion management. 

Active Design: NYC DOE encourages schools to create environments that promote physical activity for the health and well-being of students, staff, and the community. NYC DOE recommends two resources to guide schools:

  • The Active Design Toolkit for Schools was developed by the Partnership for a Healthier New York City in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYC DOE, and the New York City Department of Transportation. It provides details and strategies for and examples of incorporating active recreation, beautification, healthy foods and beverage choices, and active transportation into school environments.
  • The Active Design Playbook for Early Childhood Settings was developed by the Healthy Living by Design Unit at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with input from a range of partners and with support from the Partnership to Improve Community Health cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It provides strategies and ideas for how to incorporate active play and time in nature to support learning in NYC’s early childhood centers.

Outdoor Activity

Outdoor learning supports student learning and research points to the health, developmental, and educational benefits of time spent outside. Schools can consider increasing outdoor space capacity for classes and wellness-related activities to help develop socialization skills, enhance communities, and promote physical and mental health. Information on the school application process for requesting additional outdoor learning space, such as street space and local parks, can be found on the Outdoor Learning Initiative page

Any outdoor activities, and especially physical activities, should adhere to the following weather safety considerations: 
  • Cold Weather: Unless it is snowing, there is ice on the playground, or the wind-chill factor is below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) low temperatures should not be a barrier to outside play, as long as children are appropriately dressed. Check out the Guidelines for Playing Outdoors. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene strongly encourages principals to maintain outdoor play periods on the vast majority of winter days.
  • Warm weather: When the outdoor temperature is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), children are at increased risk for heat-related illness and may have lower tolerance for exercise. Children can also experience illness and lower tolerance for exercise when humidity is high–even if the temperature is below 95 degrees–or there is a heat index at or above 90 degrees. When outdoor temperatures are in the 90s and humidity is high, schools should:
    • Limit children's outdoor recess and playtime between the sun's peak hours (10:00 a.m. to at least 2:00 p.m.);
    • Reduce the intensity of outdoor activities lasting more than 15 minutes;
    • Make sure students have easy access to water and encourage them to drink often;
      • Pay special attention to students who may be more susceptible to heat related illness, like those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. 

Schools should encourage parents and caregivers to have students wear clothing that is light-colored and lightweight. Review the New York City Department of Health's Extreme Heat and Your Health website for more information on how to prevent heat illness, indoors and outdoors, during extreme heat days. 

Comprehensive Health Education

Health education plays a critical role in helping students develop the knowledge and skills they need to care for their minds, bodies, and relationships with others. Health education provides young people with the opportunity to develop essential competencies, such as goal setting, self-advocacy, communication, decision-making, analyzing influences, accessing resources, and self-management, that will help them succeed in school and in life. 

The NYC DOE must provide students with health education according to New York State Education Law 804, and under rules set out in Commissioner’s Regulations 135. According to New York State Commissioner's Regulations Part 135.3, the NYC DOE requires standards-based Comprehensive Health Education in elementary, middle, and high school that is medically accurate, age- and developmentally appropriate, culturally inclusive, and provided in a safe and supportive learning environment where all students feel valued.

Comprehensive health education promotes healthy lifestyle habits, healthy relationships, and health literacy for all students by developing their social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. To assist schools with providing health education, NYC DOE provides research-based, recommended curricula for the elementary, middle and high school levels, and offers teachers free training throughout the year. If a school selects another health education curriculum, it should align with National Health Education Standards (Open External Link), and the National Sex Education Standards (available in English and Spanish) and it must fulfill State and local health education requirements. The NYC DOE provides a K-12 Health Education Scope and Sequence to help schools provide sequential, skills-based and age-appropriate health education in Grades K-5Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12.

Health Education Topics

New York City schools should take a skills-based approach to teaching comprehensive health education that addresses a variety of topics, such as tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse; healthy eating/nutrition; mental and emotional health; personal health and wellness; physical activity; safety and injury prevention; and violence prevention. At the secondary level, health education must include sexual health education that is LGBTQ-inclusive. 

Whenever possible, nutrition promotion events and activities within and around the school—such as Office of Food and Nutrition Services tastings, school garden and Garden to Café activities, community farmers’ markets, and School Wellness Council healthy cooking/eating events—should be referenced and/or coordinated with nutrition education lessons provided as part of comprehensive health education.

New York State mandates these health education topics:

  • Mental health instruction for grades K-12
  • Child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention lessons for grades K-8
  • Heroin and opioid content included within Health Education drug and alcohol curricula 
  • HIV prevention lessons K-12 (see next section)

All students K-12 receive lessons annually on the nature, methods of transmission, and methods of prevention of HIV and AIDS. Parents and caregivers may opt their child out of “prevention” lessons having to do with methods of preventing pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), not including abstinence lessons. Additional information about parent notification and opt-out policies for certain HIV lessons and certain sexual health education lessons is available on the NYC DOE website.

School-Level Requirements

In elementary schools

  • Students must receive health education every year
  • Every student K-6 must receive five HIV/AIDS lessons from the NYC DOE HIV/AIDS Curriculum every year
  • Certified health education teachers or classroom teachers may teach health education

In middle schools

  • Students must receive the equivalent of one 54-hour comprehensive health education course
  • NYC DOE requires that sexual health education be included in the comprehensive health education course, and strongly recommends providing health education in 6th or 7th grade
    • Parents and caregivers may opt their child out of certain sexual health lessons having to do with methods of prevention
  • Every student must receive annual lessons on HIV and AIDS from the NYC DOE HIV/AIDS Curriculum; five lessons are required annually for grade 6 and six lessons are required annually for grades 7 and 8
  • New York State regulations require that health education be taught by a certified health education teacher

In high schools

  • Students must receive the equivalent of one 54-hour, one-credit health education course
  • One credit of health education is a graduation requirement
  • NYC DOE requires that sexual health education be included in the comprehensive health education course, and strongly recommends providing health education in 9th or 10th grade
    • Parents and caregivers may opt their child out of certain sexual health lessons having to do with methods of prevention
    • Condom demonstrations are permitted in high school health education classes
  • Every student 9-12 must receive six lessons on HIV and AIDS from the NYC DOE HIV/AIDS Curriculum every year
  • New York State regulations require that health education be taught by a certified health education teacher

Health Services

When children are healthy, they are more likely to learn and to be successfully engaged in school. In-school health services play a vital role in removing health obstacles to learning by ensuring access and/or referral to primary health care services, providing integrated mental health services, managing chronic disease conditions, providing emergency care for illness or injury, identifying communicable diseases, and enacting practices and systems to ensure that all students have access to key, developmentally appropriate resources and services during school hours.

The NYC DOE provides a range of health services to support student well-being and academic success, including:

  • On-site school nurses, physicians, and health educators
  • School-Based Health Centers
  • Mental health programs, vision screening, dental screening, and reproductive health services

The NYC DOE strongly encourages all schools to promote available health services and to strengthen links between instructional areas, especially between health education and health services, to help students access health resources and put learning into action. School nurses, School-Based Health Center staff, and other health staff are important members of the school community to include in School Wellness Councils. 

Condom Availability Program (CAP)

As part of the NYC DOE HIV/AIDS prevention program, and in alignment with NYS Commissioner’s Regulation 135.3 (c) (2-ii), New York City high schools must provide Health Resource Rooms where trained staff can provide free condoms, health information, and health referrals to students in grades 9-12. The Office of School Wellness Programs provides free CAP training to school staff, and provides free condoms, educational materials, and promotional materials for CAP staff to operate Heath Resource Rooms. Parents and caregivers may opt-out their child from receiving condoms; however, all students have the right to receive information and referrals to health services. Every high school CAP must:

  • Have at least two trained NYC DOE staff. Additional DOE and non-DOE staff who work at the school can also be trained to support the program
  • Be available for at least ten periods a week for the duration of the school year
  • Clearly advertise Health Resource Room time and location for all students via a student letter and posters
  • Provide opt-out letters to parents and caregivers of all new students upon enrollment
  • Maintain a confidential list of all students who have opted out, and make that list available to all CAP staff (students on the opt-out list must be identified by ID numbers only; names cannot be used)
  • Provide referrals to school-based and community-based health services, as needed
  • Strive to make the Health Resource Room a safe, supportive and inclusive place for all students
  • Maintain student confidentiality

School Food Nutrition and Promotion

Good nutrition is paramount for a great education. When students have a healthy diet, it enhances their attention and understanding during class time. The Office of Food and Nutrition Services offers nutritious, complete meals daily that provide students with the fuel their brains need to excel in school. Schools are strongly encouraged to highlight what is being served in the lunchroom during announcements, in newsletters, during community meetings, and as part of nutrition education lessons. Doing so will allow students to learn about the benefits and value of healthy choices. 

Meals served by the Office of Food and Nutrition Services through the School Breakfast Program (SBP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), After-School Snack, and Supper programs adhere to the following requirements: 
  • Meet local, State, and federal requirements for reimbursement
  • Restrict the fat content of meals as follows:
    • Total fat will be limited to 30 percent of the total calories over the course of the week
    • Saturated fat will be limited to 10 percent of the total calories over the course of the week
  • Provide limited and targeted amounts of sodium
  • Offer and promote the consumption of fresh fruit and a variety of vegetables daily
  • Offer and promote the inclusion of plant-based entrees
  • Incorporate seasonal and locally produced foods into menus
  • Provide refrigerated water jets in cafeterias
  • Offer three varieties of milk:
    • Low-fat (1%)
    • Fat-free
    • Fat-free chocolate milk
    • Exception: Some special populations may receive whole milk 

The Office of Food and Nutrition Services will continue to prohibit ingredients that are potentially harmful to developing children in the products served on our menus. Monthly menus will be posted in school dining rooms and on the NYC DOE website.

The Menu Nutrition Information page includes the nutritional content of daily menu items. Also, a mobile phone application with menu information and food review options is available for download on the NYC DOE website.


To meet students' nutritional needs and to stress the benefits of a healthy breakfast, the Office of Food and Nutrition Services encourages students to participate in the School Breakfast program. 
  • Breakfast is offered at no charge to all NYC public school students
  • Breakfast in the Classroom will continue to be offered as a service model to all NYC elementary schools in order to provide students with a healthy meal to begin the school day 


The Office of Food and Nutrition Services offers students a varied lunch menu designed to meet nutritional standards, and works with students to develop innovative and healthy items for use in menus. 

New foods and menu items are evaluated to identify healthful and appealing choices. This is done by: 
  • the Office of Food and Nutrition Services staff and students in the Food and Nutrition Services test kitchen
  • reviewing likes and dislikes of students based on menu metric data, mobile application surveys, and school partnership meetings
  • testing items in selected schools and obtaining feedback from students before marketing the product more widely 

Competitive Foods: Foods and Beverages Sold/Served Outside the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program

“Competitive Foods” refers to foods and beverages sold to students through vending machines, a la carte snacks, school stores, school fundraisers, and school-based kitchens. Food and beverages in these settings are governed by the Chancellor’s Regulation on Competitive Foods (CR A-812).

Effective February 2010, only foods and beverages that meet the New York City Department of Education Office of Food and Nutrition Services guidelines may be offered for sale during school hours. The Office of Food and Nutrition Services list will not include items prohibited by federal and/or New York State law.

Information on Office of Food and Nutrition Services-approved snack products, ingredients, portion sizes, and other information is available on the NYC DOE Menu Nutrition Information webpage.

Beverage Standards for Areas Accessible to School Children Elementary Schools (serving grades K-5, K-8, and K-12)

Machine Locations Permitted Products Calorie Limit Serving Size Limit
Student-Accessible Areas Water N/A None
Student-Accessible Areas Low-Calorie Drinks without artificial flavors or colors 10 calories per 8 oz. None


  • Beverages cannot contain artificial sweeteners, other natural non-nutritive or very low-calorie sweeteners (e.g. stevia, erythritol), artificial flavors or artificial colors
  • Carbonated and caffeinated products are not allowed

Beverage Standards for Areas Accessible to School Children Middle Schools (serving grades 6-9 and 6-12)

Machine Locations Permitted Products Calorie Limit Serving Size Limit
Student-Accessible Areas Water N/A None
Student-Accessible Areas Low-Calorie Drinks without artificial flavors or colors 10 calories per 8 oz. None


  • Beverages cannot contain artificial sweeteners, other natural non-nutritive or very low-calorie sweeteners (e.g. stevia, erythritol), artificial flavors or artificial colors
  • Carbonated and caffeinated products are not allowed
  • Calorie information must be posted for each beverage, as packaged
  • Advertisements of high-calorie beverages on vending machines prohibited

Beverage Standards for Areas Accessible to School Children High Schools (serving grades 9-12)

Machine Locations Permitted Products Calorie Limit Serving Size Limit
Student-Accessible Areas Water N/A None
Student-Accessible Areas Low-Calorie Drinks without artificial flavors or colors 25 calories per 8 oz. None


  • Beverages cannot contain artificial sweeteners, other natural non-nutritive or very low-calorie sweeteners (e.g. stevia, erythritol), artificial flavors or artificial colors
  • Carbonated and caffeinated products are not allowed
  • Calorie information must be posted for each beverage, as packaged
  • Advertisements of high-calorie beverages on vending machines prohibited

Beverage Standards for Areas Not Accessible to School Children (e.g., Teacher Lounges and Administrative Offices)

Beverage vending machines in administrative offices and teacher-accessible areas (e.g., teachers’ lounge and other spaces to which students do not have access) shall comply with the Citywide standards for beverage vending machines for adults, which may be updated from time to time by the City at its sole discretion.

Snack Standards for Areas Accessible to School Children

Guidelines for the Sale of Food and Snack Items: Office of Food and Nutrition Services' goal is to encourage students to develop healthy eating habits by reducing or eliminating the total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content of snack items. Snack vending machines may not be used in any schools serving grade levels pre-kindergarten (“PK”) through five (5). They can be used in middle and high schools (see standards below).

Many popular snack items have been reformulated to meet enhanced nutritional standards. The Chancellor’s Regulation on Competitive Foods (CR A-812) provides rules for the sale of food and snack items.

Student fundraising sales of approved items will be allowed throughout the school day outside of the cafeteria (Chancellor’s Regulation A-812, Section I, Paragraph-G).

Snacks in Student- and Teacher-Accessible Machines (Middle and High School Only)

  • All products must be in single-serve packages
  • Products may not contain any artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Products to contain no more than 200 calories per serving
  • Products to contain no more than 200 mg. of sodium
  • Products to contain less than 10% of total calories from saturated fat
  • Products to contain no more than 35% of total calories from fat (nuts, and nut butters are exempt)
  • Combination products of dried fruit and nuts are exempt from the total fat standards
  • Products to contain less than 0.5 grams of Trans Fat per serving
  • Products to contain no more than 35% of total calories from added sugars (fruit products with no added sugars are exempt)
  • Grain-based products must contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving
  • All fresh fruits and vegetables are acceptable. In addition, yogurt must contain ≤15 grams sugar per 4 oz. and cannot contain artificial flavors or colors

Approved Items: Only approved foods may be offered for sale to students through vending machines, school stores, and/or school fundraising activities during non-meal hours from the beginning of the school day through 6:00 p.m., weekdays, with one exception that is limited to PA/PTA fundraising (Chancellor’s Regulation A-812, Section I, Paragraph-H).

Prohibited Items: The following items may not be offered for sale to students through vending machines, school stores, student fundraising, and/or other school fundraising activities from the beginning of the school day through 6:00 p.m., weekdays: 
  • Chewing gum
  • Candy (including hard candy, jellies, gums, marshmallow candy, fondant, licorice, spun candy, and candy-coated popcorn)
  • Water ices which do not contain fruit or fruit juices
  • Artificial sweeteners 

A list of snacks that meet NYC Department of Education criteria is available on the NYC DOE website. See Chancellor’s Regulation A-812 for further information. 

New items can be proposed for inclusion on the approved snack list by contacting:

Office of Food and Nutrition Services, Food Support Unit, NYC Department of Education

Attn: Ivan Moreno
44-36 Vernon Blvd – Room 412, L.I.C., NYC 11101
Telephone: (718) 707-4268

Nutrition Education and Promotion

The Office of Food and Nutrition Services works within all NYC DOE public schools to develop and maintain effective partnerships with members of the school community. Food and Nutrition Services encourages principals to invite students and parents and caregivers to work together to foster communication between the Office of Food and Nutrition Services and the school community.

School Wellness Councils can work with Food and Nutrition Services Partnerships to promote and monitor nutritional and physical activity policies and programs in their respective schools. These groups can serve as a resource to the school administration in implementing those policies.

The Office of School Wellness Programs will complement these efforts by addressing nutrition education in professional learning opportunities for teachers using NYC DOE-recommended comprehensive health education curricula, as well as in physical education and health education scope and sequence documents. 

Other Activities that Promote Student Wellness

NYC DOE encourages and supports schools in integrating wellness activities across the entire school setting, not just in the cafeteria, other food and beverage venues, and physical activity facilities. NYC DOE will seek to identify and share opportunities for other initiatives related to physical activity, physical education, nutrition, and other wellness components so that efforts are complementary, not duplicative. NYC DOE will also work toward the same set of goals and objectives promoting student well-being, optimal development, and strong educational outcomes. 

Community Partnerships

NYC DOE will continue to develop relationships with community partners and stakeholders in support of this wellness policy’s implementation. Existing and new community partnerships and sponsorships will be evaluated to ensure that they are consistent with the wellness policy and its goals. 

Community Health Promotion and Engagement

NYC DOE will continue to work with schools to support their efforts in promoting to parents/caregivers, families, and the general community, the benefits of and approaches for healthy eating and physical activity throughout the school year. School-sponsored activities, as well as district-level activities, can help engage families in understanding the importance of physical education, health education, good nutrition, regular physical activity, and access to health services. Go to section III. Operationalizing the Citywide School Wellness Policy: Community Involvement, Outreach, and Communications for more information on how to receive updates to the Citywide School Wellness Policy and to learn about wellness-related programs and practices. 


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