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PPA Abstracts

  • Making the Choice

    Birkenshaw P, Probart C, McDonnell E, Michelman M.

    Presented at American School Food Service Association Annual Conference; Houston, TX, July 1996. This poster won "Nutrition Education and Training" poster award at the American School Food Service Association's conference in Houston, TX, in July 1996.

    USDA's School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children requires implementation of the Dietary Guidelines with the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. While school food service facilities have been working toward meeting these guidelines, many people have expressed confusion and concern regarding the details and implications of this requirement. Formative evaluation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania determined the following relating to the impact of the initiative:

    1. A need exists for information that is consistent, reliable, and authoritative.
    2. Six specific concerns exist: cost, time, limited knowledge of nutrition, limited technical expertise, lack of resources, lack of experience.

    In response to these identified needs, The Pennsylvania Department of Education, in collaboration with The Pennsylvania State University has designed a two-year educational campaign targeted to school food service directors, administrators, and cafeteria managers to address their concerns and provide information and training necessary to facilitate implementation of the School Meals Initiative. Phase One of the campaign, and the focus of this poster, is a satellite conference, "Conference One: Making the Choice." This conference was designed to enable districts to select one of the menu planning options as required by USDA regulations. The use of satellite technology enables training to be provided in a consistent manner, over a short period of time to a large, geographically dispersed audience. Satellite conferences can also facilitate networking--as smaller, regional groups participate in an informal workshop environment. The model used in the conference involves providing centralized instruction transmitted to downlink sites, interspersed with local, hands-on activities to provide interest, interaction, and skills development. The local, off-satellite portion of the program is conducted by trained facilitators, selected from the target audience. The purpose of this poster is to describe the development, implementation, and evaluation of the satellite conference broadcast to downlink sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Knowledge and attitude changes in conference participants will be presented, as well as recommendations for future educational strategies.

  • Training Needs for School Food Service Personnel in Pennsylvania

    Michelman MM, McDonnell E, Probart C, Birkenshaw P.

    Presented at American School Food Service Association Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, July 1997.

    In 1996, new federal regulations were put into effect requiring School Food Service (SFS) employees to plan school meals that meet nutrient standards and the Dietary Guidelines. The regulations resulted in a need for SFS employees at all levels to learn new reimbursable meal patterns and documentation requirements. A needs assessment reflecting the perspective of School Food Service Directors (SFSD) is crucial in identifying training needs. In Pennsylvania, a needs assessment was conducted through written surveys and phone interviews to determine the training and general needs for SFS. The survey was mailed to a random sample of 200 SFSD in the state, and 104 completed surveys were returned. Responding to the open-ended question, "What are your specific needs to help you meet USDA regulations?", the most frequent responses referred to training in nutrient analysis, computer training, time, and assistance with recipes and menus. Additional topics of concern were obtaining a computer, better interpretation of the guidelines, product information, clarification on monitoring requirements from the state, production records, money, student and staff education. In addition, to provide more in depth feedback, phone calls were placed to 30 geographically dispersed SFSD who function as trainers within their local areas as part of a statewide training. These SFSD were asked to provide suggestions for the training needs for SFS in Pennsylvania. An overwhelming majority of directors called for training directed towards SFS employees other than directors (managers, cooks, servers) in topic areas dealing with the new federal regulations. Training areas often mentioned included NuMenus, production records, dietary guidelines and standardizing menus. Other ideas included instruction in modifying current recipes, computer training and cycle menu samples of the different menu planning systems. Sanitation was also mentioned as a training need. The results indicate an interest for training in many areas, specifically relating to the new federal regulations, with particular emphasis on computer skills and monitoring requirements. Future training should be targeted to all levels of SFS employees.

  • Changes in School Food Service Directors' Computer Knowledge and Attitudes as a Result of Computer Workshops

    I. Haapala, MS; J. E. Weirich, MEd; C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802.

    Based on a needs assessment, workshops were developed to provide SFSDs with computer and nutrient analysis skills. Recognizing the array of existing skills in the target group, two sessions were conducted. Day one consisted of general skills training to provide confidence and computer familiarity. Day two consisted of an introduction to nutrient analysis and practice using approved USDA nutrient analysis software. Eighteen SFSD participated in the first session. A total of 48 SFSD completed the second session on nutrient analysis; 17 of those were "graduates" of the introductory first session. Demographic, knowledge, and attitude data were collected pre and post intervention and analyzed with Minitab statistical software. Most participants had worked in school food service for more than 10 years; most represented public schools. Half of the participants were between 41 and 50 years of age. As a result of the first day session, SFSD improved on an objective task-based 10-point scale from 3.5±1.8 to 8.1±1.7 (t=7.84,p<0.001) and all participants rated themselves higher than "beginners" on a rating scale. First day participants' self rating of their confidence in ability to learn computers improved significantly (t=3.0,p<0.01). At the start of day one, 56% of participants stated feeling "nervous" about using a computer; however, at the end of the session all of the participants stated feeling "at ease" at the computer. Participants at the second day improved pre to post test on the objective computer task scale from 8.6±1.8 to 11.1±4.4 (t=3.09,p<0.005). Measures of computer attitudes did not improve on the second day of training, however entry levels were high suggesting a "ceiling effect". In summary, an introductory computer workshop demonstrated significant improvement in computer knowledge and attitudes among SFSD. Additional nutrient analysis training showed improvements in computer skills, but changes were not detected in attitudes. This evaluation indicates that computer training will result in an increase in computer knowledge and positive attitude toward computers in SFSD. Specifics of the workshop content and evaluation will be presented in this session.

  • Menu Adjustments Made by SFS Directors to Address USDA Nutrient Standards and Dietary Guidelines

    L. Rockwell; E. McDonnell, MS, RD; M. Michelman; C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802.

    Based on Federal regulations, SFSDs need to document whether their menus meet nutrient standards.

    In order to assess the status of changes in menus based on the regulations, a survey was administered to a group of 48 school food service employees who attended a training session on nutrient analysis software. The survey included questions about participant demographics, perception of reaching USDA nutrient standards for school meals, self-reported menu changes, and documentation practices. The majority of the participants in the session were School Food Service Directors (83.33%). Respondents were split in terms of educational level. Twenty had high school diplomas and twenty had Bachelors degrees. Most of the SFSDs reported that they had begun to make menu changes associated with USDA nutrient standards. Twenty-five percent reported they felt they met the standards, forty percent had started the process, and only four percent (two respondents) stated that they had not yet begun making changes. Almost 40% of SFSDs felt that their meals were not less than 30% fat. Seventeen percent felt that their meals averaged less than 30% fat. The remaining 43% felt that their meals were sometimes low in fat. Eighty-five percent of the SFSDs reported increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in their menus as a result of the new USDA regulations, and sixty-two percent felt that their menus were high in fruits and vegetables. Fifty-two percent had not analyzed the nutrient content of their menus; 48% had done so either by computer or manually. Most SFSDs (81%) are currently collecting nutrient information on the foods they are serving and most (73%) are requesting low fat foods from vendors. Most SFSDs in this sample are making changes to meet the USDA standards, and additional data about these changes will be presented along with conclusions.

  • Description of Computer Use Among School Food Service Directors

    J. E. Weirich, MEd; C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD; and E. McDonnell, MS, R D. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802.

    To aid in creating a computer training program for School Food Service Directors (SFSD) and eventually, to measure its success, a survey was administered to a random sample of 200 SFSD across the state.

    The response rate was 52%. The survey was designed to assess computer use, computer skills, attitudes toward computers, and barriers to computer use. Almost 80% of respondents represented public schools. 73% were female and 65% were over 40 years old. Most had already attended some type of computer training and nearly all (93%) expressed interest in future training. With the opportunity to choose from among four training options, Beginning or Intermediate General Computer Skills or Beginning or Intermediate Computerized Nutrient Analysis, responses were rather evenly distributed and no outstanding preferences were revealed, although selections of the Beginner level in both categories outnumbered Intermediate level selections. External restrictions, such as, "I don't have money for attending a training session" were cited as "most important barriers to computer use". Nobody selected, "I'm not comfortable using a computer" or "Learning to use a computer would be too difficult for me" in this category. Nearly three quarters of the group reported already using computers at work and nearly half of those who don't use computers at all are at least "ready to learn." Most know how to turn on a computer and a few other rudimentary skills. Skills least often claimed were those which involved performing nutrient analysis tasks. Although Likert scale measurements of feelings about computers elicited apprehensions from some about computer use making them "nervous" and "confused", 70% expressed the highest level of agreement when asked if they felt computers are very useful for performing nutrient analysis. Correlations were not found between demographic data and the other areas of concern addressed by the survey. As a result of data from this instrument it can be construed that SFSD of all backgrounds are interested in using computers in their work and are interested in various levels of training. In particular, training on computerized nutrient analysis may be needed for those directors interested in analyzing their menus. However, a major barrier to attending training programs is cost.

  • Factors Predictive of Success in a Nutrition Education Teleconference for School Food Service Workers

    C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD; E. McDonnell, MS, RD; P. Birkenshaw, MA. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802; Pennsylvania Department of Education, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333.

    To determine characteristics predictive of change in knowledge and attitude relating to implementation of Dietary Guidelines requirements resulting from a six-hour nutrition teleconference.

    A "Pre-test - Intervention - Post-test" design was used to analyze knowledge and attitude change, as well as determine factors predictive of change. The teleconference was delivered to 24 downlink sites reaching over 650 people. Knowledge and attitude improved significantly following the teleconference. Predictive variables were related to personal, organizational and environmental factors and include job title, administrative duties and membership in professional organizations. In addition, specific differences were identified between Dietary Directors and Cafeteria Managers with implications for designing interventions. The predictive ability of certain variables suggests content and process possibilities for targeting messages to specific audience segments.

  • Development and Evaluation of a Computer Exploration Kit for School Food Service Personnel

    E. McDonnell, MS, RD; C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD; P. Birkenshaw, MA. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802 and Pennsylvania Department of Education, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333.

    In September of 1996, Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Penn State Nutrition Department, received Team Nutrition funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for computer training for school food service personnel in Pennsylvania.

    Recognizing the varying degrees of interest, skills, and attitudes toward computer use among the school food service population, a segmentation strategy was devised to assure that the needs of all school food service directors would be addressed. A motivational strategy was developed for those individuals least interested in computer use. This strategy involved development of a kit, entitled the "Computer Exploration Kit", consisting of a 15-minute video and print materials to be distributed to all National School Lunch Program sponsors in Pennsylvania. In an engaging, entertaining fashion, the video, "School Food Service Computer Trailblazers", presents computers as a non- threatening tool with many uses in school food service. The video was presented to and evaluated by 116 school food service employees participating in a computer workshop. Ninety-nine percent felt that the video would generate interest in computer use among non-computer users. Their written comments indicated a very strong positive reaction to the video, which they thought would be useful in a wide variety of settings. Print materials accompanying the video in the kit include information on how to get started using a computer, where to find technical support, school food service related internet sites, a glossary of computer terms, and information on the USDA-approved nutrient analysis software programs. The "Computer Exploration Kit" will be described and the results of the evaluation and potential uses for the kit will be presented.

  • School Food Service Directors' Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes Resulting from a Training Workshop

    M.V. Harris; C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD; E. McDonnell, MS, RD, and K. Dvorchak. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802.

    From a needs assessment, two-day computerized nutrient analysis workshops were developed and delivered to 108 Pennsylvania School Food Service Directors (SFSD).

    A "Pre-test - Intervention - Post-test" design was used to assess knowledge, skills and attitudes towards computers and nutrient analysis software (NAS). Knowledge and attitudes were measured using a Likert scale. Skills were measured by self-reported ability to perform various tasks. Increases were found in computer knowledge (p=.0006) and knowledge of NAS (p=.0000). Improvements were found in attitudes towards computers (p=.021) and using NAS with nervousness decreasing (p=.0022) and enjoyablity increasing (p=.0000). No significant difference was found in perceptions of how difficult NAS would be for the subjects (p=.39); however, the initial perceptions were very positive suggesting a "ceiling effect". Computer skills did not change, possibly due to the high level of baseline skills. After the workshop perceptions of NAS skills increased (p=.0000) by 48.6%. SFSD increased NAS skills to assess the nutritional value of school meals (p=.0000), to add recipes (p=.0000), to adjust number of recipe portions (p=.0000), and to create a menu (p=.0000) as well as ability to choose NAS for school districts (p=.0000). In summary, a computerized nutrient analysis training workshop demonstrated significant improvement in SFSD computer knowledge and attitudes as well as NAS knowledge, skills and attitudes. This project was funded by a USDA Team Nutrition grant, administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition.

  • Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating a Decentralized Model for School Food Service Training

    C. Probart, PhD, RD, LD; E. McDonnell, MS, RD; P. Birkenshaw, MA. Penn State University, Nutrition Department, University Park, PA 16802 and Pennsylvania Department of Education, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333.

    A decentralized model was developed for training School Food Service (SFS) personnel in Pennsylvania, based on a series of needs assessments.

    SFS personnel in 3839 schools in Pennsylvania serve lunch to more than 905,000 children daily. Training for SFS personnel was precipated in 1995 by passage of the School Meals Initiative requiring school meals to meet the Dietary Guidelines and Nutrient Standards. Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Penn State University, and SFS personnel, was formed as a response to this need. Project PA has initiated a variety of training methods. Two statewide satellite teleconferences have reached over 1500 SFS employees; local workshops have trained more than 3000; three videos have been distributed to all 875 sponsors of the NSLP in Pennsylvania. An integral component of the model is the "grass-roots" involvement of the target audience with the recruitment of SFS directors to serve on a project advisory board and as trainers for their colleagues in local areas. The SFS audience has also been involved in a series of needs assessments that have shaped the project's educational efforts. Formative evaluation of each component of the program has been conducted. Survey forms that have been developed to assess changes in knowledge and attitudes will be displayed. This project was administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, with funds provided by the USDA, Food and Nutrition Service.

  • Local Wellness Policies of School Districts in Pennsylvania

    Jomaa LH, Chopade SN, Baylis MS, Orlofsky C, McDonnell ET, Probart CK.

    Learning Outcomes: The reader will be able to determine the areas in school wellness policies that are most frequently addressed versus those least addressed and identify possible gaps when evaluating and monitoring the implementation of policies.

    School districts (SD) sponsoring school-meals program are now required to develop Local Wellness policies (LWP) to address childhood obesity. The purpose of this study was to describe the top policy goals related to Nutrition Education (NE), Physical Activity (PA), and Other School-Based Activities (OSBA) to promote student wellness developed by Pennsylvania’s SD. Data from 300 LWP was received, entered, and calculated using Microsoft Access. Descriptive analysis of LWP showed that 83% SD included broad goal where” NE is to teach, encourage, and support healthy eating by students” and only 29% addressed the specific interplay between school food service and NE classes as learning laboratory for students. Similarly, 82% addressed the provision of opportunities for developmentally-appropriate PA yet 47% included a definite target of 60 accumulated minutes of PA and only 53% SD prohibited the use of food as reward or punishment in an explicit OSBA. NE and PA policies involving collaborative efforts with families and community were among the least selected. Fifty four percent of LWP mentioned engaging families and communities in NE, 46% included a goal related to involvement of parents in menu selections, and only 33% included after-school PA programs. In conclusion, SD policies expressed general trends in goal selection with top selected goals presenting broad philosophical statements and legislative requirements; whereas, least selected goals were more specific. Results from this study have direct implications on potential challenges faced when measuring LWP implementation by schools and monitoring organizations. 

  • School Employees Description of the Local Wellness Policy Development Process and their Impressions of the Wellness Policies

    McDonnell ET, Probart CK, Orlofsky C.

    Purpose: The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 mandated that school districts develop local wellness policies (LWPs) to address childhood obesity by July 2006. This study was undertaken to describe school employees' involvement in the LWP development process, assess satisfaction with LWPs, identify concerns related to implementation, and identify strategies to facilitate successful policy implementation. Methods: A 39-item survey instrument was developed and distributed to 150 participants following five presentations. Descriptive statistics were done using SPSS software (SPSS base 11.5 for Windows, 2002, SPSS Inc. Chicago, IL.

    Results: One hundred surveys were returned (response rate = 66.7%). Respondents included school foodservice directors (SFDs) (26%), other school foodservice (SFS) employees (52%), teachers (6%), and other job titles (13%). Approximately half (45%) of respondents and 89% of SFDs indicated involvement in LWP development. Of those not involved, 57% were not familiar with the policy, including 63% of other SFS employees. Respondents who were involved in policy development were fairly satisfied with the policy (mean=3.9 ± 1.0, on a 5-point scale with 5 being very satisfied). Top concerns about implementation were related to cost, support from key stakeholders, and enforcement. Needs were identified related to communication of data demonstrating links between LWPs and both students health and academic achievement.

    Conclusions: Findings suggest the need to market LWPs to the entire school community, communicate data related to positive student outcomes, establish clear plans for policy enforcement, and identify cost-neutral strategies for policy implementation.

  • School Wellness Policies Addressing Use of Food as a Reward

    Baylis MS, Jomaa LH, Chopade SN, McDonnell ET, Orlofsky CO, Probart CK

    Journal of the American Dietetic Association. August 2007 (Suppl 3) 107:8. A-21.

    Learning Outcomes: School personnel may not understand the rationale for discouraging use of food rewards. Education is needed on this topic as well as lists of alternative rewards to share with schools.

    Research suggests that food rewards to achieve short-term behavior changes undermine healthy behavior messages, encourage consumption of foods high in sugar and fat, and encourage children to eat regardless of hunger and satiety cues. Work conducted by our group suggests that food rewards may be common practice in schools. The recent requirement that schools develop wellness policies to address childhood obesity represents an ideal opportunity to address and discourage this practice. Several state and national organizations have recommended that schools adopt policies related to discouraging the use of food as a reward or punishment. However, schools are not required to include this specific policy goal. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which schools included and/or modified this goal. Wellness policies from 300 school districts in Pennsylvania were analyzed by entering wellness policy goals using a Microsoft Access database. Descriptive analyses of the 300 policies showed that 53% (n = 159) included a goal about food rewards. Of these policies, 49% stated that food will not be used as a reward or punishment. Slightly more than half (51%) modified this goal by stating that food rewards would be used in moderation, for educational purposes, or only healthy foods would be used. These results suggest that school personnel may not understand the rationale for discouraging use of food rewards. Education is needed on this topic as well as lists of alternative rewards to share with schools.

  • School Employees’ Perceptions of School Breakfast Programs

    Chopade SN, Baylis MS, Jomaa LH, McDonnell ET, Orlofsky CO, Probart CK.

    Journal of the American Dietetic Association. August 2007 (Suppl 3) 107:8. A-108.

    Learning Outcomes: The participant will be able to identify positive and negative perceptions of school employees related to School Breakfast Program.

    The literature suggests that participation in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) is related to increased attentiveness, decreased absenteeism, and improved behavior. However, participation in the SBP lags behind that of school lunch. Little is known about how school employees perceive the SBP. A 22-item survey, developed to assess school employees’ perceptions of the SBP, was sent to principals, teachers, foodservice directors and school nurses at 44 schools with recently-initiated SBPs. Of 1641 surveys sent, 1167 were returned for a response rate of 71%. Results indicated that staffing issues and bus schedules were seen as top barriers for initiating SBPs, indicated by 18.4% and 14.5% of respondents, respectively. Parents (mean = 7.2 ± 1.9) were considered to be least supportive while principals (mean = 8.5 ± 1.7), were found to be highly supportive of SBP based on a 10 point scale with 10 being “very supportive.” Almost 60% of respondents disagreed that time is wasted and 56.9% disagreed that trash is a problem as a result of the SBP. Respondents agreed that the school learning environment (38.6%), and student attentiveness (41.5%) have improved since initiating the SBP. A large majority of respondents (85.6%) felt that the SBP should be part of the school district’s local wellness policies. Results suggest that school employees are highly satisfied and recognized benefits of SBP. These findings should be shared with other schools as motivation to start SBPs.

  • Perceptions of School Foodservice vs. Administrative Personnel Related to Childhood Obesity and Wellness Policy Development

    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 Outcomes: 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.

  • Effectiveness of a Satellite Teleconference in Promoting School Breakfast Programs

    C.K. Probart, PhD, RD*; E.T. McDonnell, MS, RD*; J.E. Weirich, MEd*; P. Birkenshaw, MA**; V. Fekete, MS, RD**. *Penn State University, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University Park, PA; **Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, Harrisburg, PA.

    Learning Outcomes: To describe an effective strategy for increasing knowledge about School Breakfast Programs and promoting the initiation of School Breakfast Programs

    Text: A project designed to promote School Breakfast Programs (SBP) in our state included a satellite teleconference for school foodservice (SFS) personnel. A one-year follow-up evaluation was conducted to determine if there were differences in key variables between teleconference participants and non-participants, or between those exposed to the teleconference content through an edited video/DVD which was distributed to all SFS directors in our state versus those not exposed. A 33-item survey was created and distributed to 369 SFS directors - 169 teleconference participants and 200 non-participants. Three hundred twenty-three surveys were returned (response rate = 87.5%). Compared to non-participants, participants rated their knowledge of strategies to improve school meals participation higher (7.5 ± 1.6 vs. 6.7 ± 1.8, with 10 being very informed; p < 0.001) and were more familiar with strategies for increasing school meals participation (10.2 ± 1.4 vs. 8.8 ± 2.4, on an 11 point familiarity scale; p < 0.001). Three-quarters of participants shared teleconference information with SFS staff, and almost half shared information with administrators. Eighty-one percent of respondents indicated either viewing the edited teleconference video or likelihood to do so. Collapsing participants with those who indicated viewing the edited teleconference video to create an exposure category, we found that, compared to those not exposed to the teleconference content, those in the exposure group were significantly more likely to have started a SBP during the school year following the teleconference (26.9% vs. 16.5%; p < 0.05). These findings support teleconferences as an effective strategy for promoting SBPs.

    Funding Disclosure: This project was funded through United States Department of Agriculture State Administrative Expense funds administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

  • Issues Related to Pennsylvania High School Students’ Purchasing Behavior

    C. Probart, PhD, RD*; E. McDonnell, MS, RD, LDN*; T. Hartman, PhD, RD, MPH*; J. E. Weirich, M Ed*; C. Orlofsky, BA*; L. Bailey-Davis, MA, RD** * Penn State University, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University Park, PA ** Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity, Harrisburg, PA

    Purpose/Objectives: The purpose of this research was to identify environmental issues related to participation in school lunch and sale of competitive foods in Pennsylvania public high schools.

    Methodology: A survey was developed which included questions about school demographics, sales of competitive foods, average daily participation in school lunch (ADP), and school nutrition policies. Surveys were distributed to 271 school foodservice directors (SFD) in a random sample of high schools in Pennsylvania that were selected to be representative of the entire population of high schools in Pennsylvania based on chosen demographic characteristics. As an alternative to the hard-copy version of the survey, respondents were given the option to complete a web-based version. Descriptive and multiple regression analyses were done using SPSS® version 11.5.1.

    Results: Two hundred twenty-eight SFD (84%) returned surveys. Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price meals and timing of lunch were significant predictors of a la carte sales. Those SFD indicating their first lunch time begins at 10:30AM reported higher a la carte sales. High enrollment was associated with fewer vending machines per student. Existence of soft drink machines owned by soft drink companies, for which the school receives a percent of sales, was associated with a higher number of vending machines per student. Enrollment was inversely related to ADP. The percentage of students eligible for free/reduced price meals was positively associated with ADP. SFD that reported enforcement of a policy prohibiting parents or students from bringing food into the cafeteria from local fast food establishments reported higher ADP.

    Applications: This research identifies several modifiable environmental issues related to participation in school meals and competitive food sales, including timing of lunch and the existence and enforcement of a nutrition policy. These findings may be useful to child nutrition professionals in schools in developing wellness policies, promoting school meal participation, and establishing school environments to promote healthier food choices by students.

  • A Best Practice for “Creating School Wellness Policies”

    E. McDonnell, MS, RD, LDN*; C. Probart, PhD, RD*; J. E. Weirich, M Ed*; C. Orlofsky, BA*; P. Birkenshaw, MA**; V. Fekete, MS, RD, LDN**

    Purpose: The purpose of this project was to develop a tool to provide information and motivation related to development of school wellness policies.

    Target Market: The target market includes school personnel and community members who may potentially be involved in development and implementation of wellness policies.

    Methods: A project was undertaken to support schools in the development of wellness policies and to develop an educational tool to provide information about development and implementation of local wellness policies. This project was done through Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, and Penn State University. Through a competitive grant process, seven schools were awarded mini-grants to develop a team, assess their school nutrition environments, target areas for improvement, implement activities to improve their school nutrition environments, develop a nutrition policy, and present that policy to an administrative body for review. Each of the seven schools was successful in developing a policy, presenting it to an administrative body, and having their policy approved. Project PA documented the processes and activities in these schools in video format. A concept was developed for the video which involved a fictional dramatization of a school foodservice director presenting a wellness policy to a school board and reflecting back on the policy-development process which was based on USDA’s recommended steps for developing a local wellness policy. Footage from the mini-grant schools’ activities was used within the video as examples of activities to support local wellness policies. The resulting 15-minute video is entitled, “Creating School Wellness Policies.”

    Applications: This video can be used as a training tool to provide awareness and education for school personnel and community members about the local wellness policy requirement.

  • Pennsylvania's Breakfast Brigade: A Best Practice for Improving School Breakfast

    McDonnell E, Probart CK, Weirich JE, Orlofsky C, Birkenshaw P, Fekete V.

    Purpose/Objectives: The purpose of this project was to increase the availability of school breakfast to Pennsylvania’s school children by providing school foodservice (SFS) directors with a source of one-on-one assistance in initiating or expanding school breakfast programs (SBPs). Target Market: The target market was SFS directors.

    Methods: Nine SFS directors were recruited to serve as “Breakfast Brigade” members based on their successful SBPs, professionalism, and willingness to help their colleagues. Through Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Division of Food and Nutrition and Penn State University, “Breakfast Brigade” members were provided with resources, support, and a suggested framework for working with local SFS directors to help them initiate or expand SBPs. Among the “Breakfast Brigade” members were SFS directors with experience using alternative SBP delivery methods (e.g., Breakfast in the Classroom, Breakfast After First Period, and Grab ‘n Go Breakfast.) “Breakfast Brigade” members were promoted through a brochure mailed to Superintendents, a “Breakfast Brigade” website, a message posted on PDE’s electronic bulletin board, newsletter articles, and a showcase of “Breakfast Brigade” members’ successful programs during a statewide teleconference. “Breakfast Brigade” members have assisted schools in conducting financial analyses, shared menus and promotional materials, met with school administrators, and invited SFS directors and other school representatives to visit their districts to witness their successful and creative strategies for providing school breakfast. “Breakfast Brigade” members have been involved in initiation of SBPs in 14 school districts, have helped 6 school districts expand programs, and have made contacts with an additional 28 districts.

    Applications: The use of colleagues as mentors has proven to be a successful and accepted strategy for initiating and expanding SBPs that could be used by other SFS directors. More information about the Breakfast Brigade program is available through the Project PA website: http://nutrition.psu.edu/projectpa.

  • On-site Evaluation of a Statewide Teleconference: "Increasing School Meals Participation - Creative Strategies that Work!"

    E. McDonnell, MS, RD, LDN, C. Probart, PhD, RD, J.E. Weirich, M Ed, C. Orlofsky, P. Birkenshaw, MA, and V. Fekete, MS, RD, LDN.

    Purpose/Objectives: The purpose of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of a teleconference for school foodservice (SFS) personnel. Objectives were to determine perceptions of the teleconference and intentions to act based on information presented.

    Methods: A one-day satellite teleconference was developed and presented for SFS personnel through Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Division of Food and Nutrition, and Penn State University. Teleconference objectives were to provide motivation and information to help SFS personnel initiate or improve participation in school breakfast programs (SBPs). Through pre-taped segments, a variety of creative strategies featuring successful SBPs from throughout the state were featured. Expert panels responded to questions from participants at the 28 downlink sites. Three hundred-fifty SFS employees attended the teleconference. A 56-item pre/post survey was developed and administered.

    Results: Two-hundred ninety-one surveys were returned (83% response rate.) Descriptive statistics were done using SPSS® version 11.5.1. Participants’ knowledge of strategies to improve school meals participation increased significantly (p < 0.001) as did their rating of teleconferences as a training method. Participants rated the teleconference “worthwhile” with a score of 7.8 ± 2.1 on a 10 point scale with 10 being “completely worthwhile.” Participants indicated likelihood to implement one or more of the creative strategies presented (7.4 ± 2.1 on a 10-point scale with 10 being “very likely.”) Seventy percent (n = 191) of participants indicated they might try “Grab ‘n Go” breakfast; 41% (n = 112) said they might try Universal free breakfast; 39% (n = 110) indicated they might try “Breakfast in the Classroom.”

    Applications: Alternative SBP delivery methods are accepted by SFS personnel when presented in a compelling format using colleagues as role models.

  • Evaluation of Materials Related to Childhood Obesity and Recruitment of School Wellness Council Members

    Claudia Probart, PhD, RD, Elaine McDonnell, MS, RD Charles Orlofsky, BA, J.Elaine, Weirich, M Ed, Pat Birkenshaw, MA, Vonda Fekete, MS, RD

    Objectives: Participants will identify and become familiar with educational materials and approaches to provide education about childhood obesity to recruit parents and school personnel to join school wellness councils.

    Abstract: The necessity to form school wellness councils to address childhood obesity has created a need for educational and motivational materials for parents and others. Through Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Penn State University, a kit was developed to address childhood obesity, and to recruit parents to join school wellness councils. The kit, “Preventing Childhood Overweight and Obesity: Parents Can Make a Difference,” includes a motivational video and print materials that were developed using Social Ecological Theory which suggests multiple intervention opportunities including through homes, schools, and communities. Kits were distributed to multiple school-based audiences in Pennsylvania and to the National PTA Executive Board. A 36-item pre/post questionnaire was developed to evaluate the kit and to assess perceptions of childhood obesity and likelihood to take action. The kit was presented and the questionnaire was administered to groups of 42 SFS employees and 49 school health team members (through a collaboration with Pennsylvania Action for Healthy Kids). Results indicated significant increases in perceived preparedness to recruit parents to join school wellness teams, greater recognition of the problem of childhood obesity, and stronger agreement that parents can have an impact on school nutrition environments. Additional evaluation results will be presented. This kit has potential usefulness as a tool to recruit parents to join school wellness councils to develop wellness policies as mandated by The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. This project was funded by a USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant administered through PDE.

  • Addressing Childhood Overweight Through Schools

    Probart C, McDonnell E, Weirich JE, Birkenshaw P, Fekete V.

    Department of Nutritional Sciences, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

    Rates of childhood obesity in have reached alarming proportions in many countries. Sixteen percent of school-aged children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight. Legislation implemented in 2004 in the U.S. requires local education agencies (LEAs) that sponsor school meal programs to establish local wellness policies to address childhood obesity. Project PA, a collaboration between a state agency and a university providing school-based interventions focuses on the school environment and policy changes. Interventions have targeted foodservice personnel, administrators, teachers, parents and students. In two recent projects schools assessed their school nutrition environments, developed nutrition policies, and implemented strategies to encourage healthier food selections. Schools identified weaknesses in the areas of marketing and communication of policies. Media attention on the childhood obesity facilitated policy changes. Time and cost were identified as barriers to policy development and there were concerns about weak enforcement of policies. These themes are discussed.

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