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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CHILDHOOD DIETARY INTAKE, DIETARY GUIDELINES ADHERENCE, AND EXCESS ADIPOSITY Title: Associations among school characteristics and foodservice practices in a nationally representative sample of United States schools

Authors
item Thomson, Jessica
item Tussing Humphreys, Lisa
item Martin, Corby -
item Leblanc, Monique -
item Onufrak, Stephen -

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 23, 2012
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Citation: Thomson, J.L., Tussing Humphreys, L.M., Martin, C.K., Leblanc, M., Onufrak, S.J. 2012. Associations among school characteristics and foodservice practices in a nationally representative sample of United States schools. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 44(5):423-431.

Interpretive Summary: The majority of children five years of age and older spend at least six hours per day in school, and may eat as many as three meals there. While significant strides have been made in offering healthy meals to children in school, there is still room for improvement. Using data from a national survey, which was conducted in 2006, to assess school health policies and practices in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools, we looked for relationships among school characteristics and healthy and unhealthy food service practices, or healthy food preparation practices. Compared to private and Catholic schools, public schools reported more healthy (e.g. offering a variety of fruits, vegetables, and milk), and less unhealthy (e.g. selling deep fried foods) food service practices, as well as more healthy food preparation practices (e.g. using lean meat, using skim or low-fat milk, and steaming or baking vegetables). Elementary schools reported both less healthy and less unhealthy food service practices than middle or high schools. Schools participating in USDA Team Nutrition, a comprehensive program for improving the nutritional health of school children, reported more healthy food service and healthy food preparation practices than non-participating schools. Similarly, schools requiring food service managers to have a college education or successfully complete a food service training program reported more healthy food service and healthy food preparation practices than schools without these requirements. School food service staff can promote healthy eating through the foods they make available each day in school cafeterias, and the opportunities they have to reinforce nutrition education in the classroom. Results suggest that the school nutrition environment may be improved by requiring food service managers to hold a nutrition-related college degree and/or successfully pass a state-provided/sponsored food service training program, and also by participating in a school-based nutrition program such as USDA Team Nutrition.

Technical Abstract: Despite knowledge that the school food environment can have a significant impact on children’s nutritional health, few studies have taken a comprehensive approach to assessing this environment. The purpose of this study was to determine school characteristics that were associated with healthy and unhealthy food service practices (HFSP and UFSP), or healthy food preparation practices (HFPP) in a nationally representative sample of schools. Nationally representative school-level data from the School Health Policies and Practices Study conducted in 2006 (SHPPS 2006) was used for this study. Multivariable regression was used to determine significant associations among school characteristics, HFSP, UFSP, and HFPP. Nine hundred forty four schools answered at least one question on the SHPPS 2006 Food Service School Questionnaire. Public schools reported more HFSP, less UFSP, and higher frequency of HFPP than Catholic or private schools. Elementary schools reported both less UFSP and HFSP than middle or high schools. Schools participating in USDA Team Nutrition reported more HFSP and higher frequency of HFPP than non-participating schools. Schools requiring food service managers to have a college education or successfully complete a food service training program reported both higher frequency of HFPP and more HFSP than schools without these requirements. Results suggest that the school nutrition environment may be improved by requiring food service managers to hold a nutrition-related college degree and/or successfully pass a state-provided/sponsored food service training program, and also by participating in a school-based nutrition program such as USDA Team Nutrition.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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