The team's first effort, begun in 1995, was an educational campaign targeting Pennsylvania School Food Service personnel. Project PA provided training and assistance to help them select and successfully implement appropriate menu planning systems for their schools, in compliance with the School Meals Initiative.
In this Section
Timeline - 1995 through 2005
In April, 1996, the "cadre training" was begun. Members of the Project PA cadre served as facilitators during the teleconferences. The "Computer Cadre", a group of computer literate SFS directors nominated by their colleagues in 1997, played an important part in facilitating the introduction of computers into school food service. Also in 1997, the original Cadre members were trained to help provide local workshops about the School Meals Initiative. In 1998, the cadre concept evolved into Master Instructors: At the start of the program, 21 Master Instructors (SFSD) were trained to provide local workshops in "The Cafeteria Manager's Guide to SMI", and 13 in "Nutrients in School Meals".
The cadre and Master Instructors have served as peer educators to enhance motivation and also to help implement the SMI.
"Teleconference 1: Making the Choice", was arranged to reach the widely dispersed audience of Pennsylvania School Food Service personnel. "Making the Choice" aimed to provide SFS personnel with sufficient knowledge to enable them to select a menu planning system that matched the needs of their facility. It also sought to address concerns and to generate a positive team approach toward implementation of the new regulations. This teleconference reached 1300 SFS staff at 28 sites in Pennsylvania, 13 sites in New Jersey, and 1 site in Delaware. Project PA's "Making the Choice" poster won the "Nutrition Education and Training" poster award at the American School Food Service Association's conference in Houston, TX, in July, 1996.
The Project PA Web-site was established in January 1997 to provide access to school nutrition-related information. Please use our links to learn more about healthy school nutrition environments, about Project PA's role in promoting them, and about the activities of Pennsylvania's school food service personnel.
To facilitate the adoption of the new guidelines, cadre training for SMI workshops was arranged in March 1997. In April 1997, local level SMI workshops were conducted by the cadre, reaching 1500 SFS employees.
Computer workshops were arranged at Penn State in March and May 1997; in Slippery Rock, PA, in June, 1997; in Exton, PA, in October, 1997; and in Wilkes-Barre, PA, in November, 1997; reaching a total of 213 SFS employees across the state. Members of theComputer Cadre attended these training sessions and assisted in preparing for and presenting them.The results from the computer training have been impressive. Several abstracts have been published, and manuscripts submitted for publication on the results of this training.
The "Computer Exploration Kit" was produced in July of 1997 to reduce anxiety towards computers among the SFS personnel least interested in using computers. Subsequently, 875 copies of the kit were distributed to all NSLP sponsors in the state, to be used for on-site training. It is also available from PDE.
"Teleconference II: Taking the Steps" aimed to define and clarify what constitutes compliance with the School Meals Initiative and to give SFSD the opportunity to practice applying the dietary guidelines to menu planning and/or modifying menus to meet the Nutrient Standards.
In July 1997, 50 SFSD in the Cadre were trained to facilitate the second teleconference. In August 1997, this teleconference reached 570 SFS employees at 24 downlink sites in PA. Their knowledge and attitudes about the SMI review improved significantly (p < 0.0001).
In October 1997, 35 SFSD were trained to serve as Cadre for "Menu Planning Options" workshops. The same fall, in November 1997, "Menu Planning Options" workshops arranged by SFS Cadre at 19 sites in PA reached 1100 SFS employees.
Master Instructor training was started in the summer of 1998. By September 2004, over 200 local level workshops were conducted by Master Instructors which reached about 4,900 SFS employees.
Project PA Master Instructors were foodservice directors who completed training provided by Project PA on a variety of topics, then conducted workshops on these topics for school foodservice personnel in Pennsylvania, free of charge.
The nation's largest Team Nutrition Grant at the time was awarded to Project PA in 1998 to create the Model Schools project. A video documenting the process of successful implementation of USDA's School Meals Initiative in two schools was produced for this project. A Best Practices Manual based on the experiences of these and other schools was also created. Contents of the video were the focus of Project PA's third teleconference in May 2000. An edited video from the teleconference and the Best Practices Manual were distributed statewide in the fall of that year.
The Parent Collaboration project addresses the issue of childhood obesity and how parents can be involved in solutions to this problem. Materials for this project provide summaries of key topics as well as action plan information for parents, schools, and whole communities.
The purpose of the Project PA Team Nutrition Action Plan grant program was to help schools develop and implement action plans through which cafeteria, classroom, and community members worked together to improve school nutrition and participation in the school meals programs. The awarded plans brought together representatives from school food service, school administration, and school faculty to provide for nutrition activities in the students' total environment: cafeteria, classroom, and community.
Project PA's third teleconference was conducted on May 2, 2000. "Teleconference III: Making it Work", presented case studies of the steps taken by 2 PA SFSD's to meet the SMI guidelines. Best Practices in school meals programs across the state were showcased in video and discussion formats. Other topics covered were: Steps to successful SMI Action Planning and using resources to enhance implementation of an Action Plan. 21 Master Instructors and 15 PDE staff members met in April 2000 to prepare to facilitate the teleconference, which was then broadcast in May to 24 downlink sites across PA with over 500 people again participating.
The Project PA team conducted presentations at state and regional conferences for school board members, superintendents, and principals over the period of several months in 2001. These seminars centered around the topic of nutrition-friendly policies for the total school environment. Evidence was presented indicating the value of good nutrition and the important role the schools play in this aspect of children's lives. We encouraged policy-makers to take the necessary steps to make their schools more "nutrition-friendly." Issues addressed included scheduling school lunch before recess, "pouring contracts" with soda companies, and sales of foods that compete with the school food service department's reimbursable meals, among others, all of which could be regulated by nutrition-friendly policies.
In recognition of the important role parent involvement plays in children's school success, the "Parents Project" contributed to the establishment of Nutrition-Friendly Schools by creating and expanding links between communities and schools, with the focus on parents. To mobilize parents to become part of Pennsylvania's team working toward Nutrition-Friendly Schools, Project PA developed a kit entitled Preventing Childhood Overweight and Obesity: Parents Can Make a Difference, to help address the roles of families, schools, and communities in reversing the trends in childhood obesity. The kit contains a VHS tape, a DVD video, and print materials.
During 2002-2003 the Project PA team conducted presentations based on these materials at state and regional level meetings of parent groups. The Pennsylvania PTA partnered with Project PA in these endeavors. Regional and state meetings of the PTA provided Project PA with venues for delivering the Nutrition-Friendly Schools message to parents around the state. In 2004 the PTA also contributed by helping to disseminate the parents kit.
Copies of this kit have been distributed to Pennsylvania superintendents, business managers, school board presidents, school foodservice directors, PTA presidents and Cooperative Extension educators.
On May 12, 2004, Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Penn State University, presented a one-day teleconference, “Increasing School Meals Participation: Creative Strategies that Work!”
- The primary target audience for the teleconference was school foodservice employees.
- The teleconference was broadcast to 27 sites in Pennsylvania, reaching 350 participants.
- Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, with
- Federal State Administrative Expense funds provided by the Food and Nutrition Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
The objectives of the teleconference were for participants to:
- Be motivated to take positive action to improve school meals participation
- List barriers to improving participation
- Identify effective, feasible solutions to barriers
- Identify action steps to improve participation
- Identify creative strategies they can implement in their own schools
- Identify resources to help improve school meals participation
About the Grant
Poor dietary habits, including low intake of fruits, vegetables, and milk, contribute to the alarming rate of childhood obesity currently facing the nation. Schools can play a leading role in affecting dietary patterns of children.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture awarded grants of up to $6000 to schools interested in implementing environmental strategies to improve students' food choices. The funding period was between April 1, 2005 and continued through the 2005-2006 school year.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Division of Food and Nutrition, presented three identical 1 1/2 day training sessions to provide training for school Food Service Directors based on the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.