E.T. McDonnell, MS, RD; C.K. Probart, PhD, RD; J.E. Weirich, MEd, C.Orlofsky, BA; Penn State University, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University Park, PA
LEARNING OUTCOME: To describe school employees perceptions about childhood obesity and school wellness policies and identify differences in perceptions between school foodservice personnel and school administrators


TEXT: A 27-item survey, developed to assess school employees perceptions about childhood obesity (CO) and wellness policies (WP), was distributed to 907 school employees attending a mandatory training on new federal regulations requiring all schools sponsoring school meals programs to develop WP. Six hundred twenty-eight surveys were returned (response rate = 69%). Through MANOVA analyses, we found respondents more likely to view home and community environments as contributing to CO instead of offering solutions (p < 0.01) and more likely to view schools as sources of solutions rather than contributors to CO (p < 0.01). While respondents agreed that parents can impact school nutrition environments (8.3 ± 1.9, 10 point scale with 10 being strongly agree), agreement of importance of recruiting parents to join school teams to address CO was significantly lower (7.7 ± 2.2) (p < 0.001). Perceived importance of WP to address CO was rated 7.2 ± 2.0 with significantly less reported confidence that WP would be enforced (6.2 ± 2.2) (p < 0.01). When asked who would be most supportive of reducing sales of less nutritious competitive foods, differences were found between school foodservice (SFS) personnel and administrators with administrators feeling that administrators and teachers would be more supportive than SFS personnel felt they would be (p < 0.001). Parents and students were rated least supportive by both groups. These results indicate the need for marketing efforts involving parents and students to create buy-in for WP and involvement and communication among school personnel in development, implementation, and enforcement of WP.