Stepping Up to the Challenge: The Development, Implementation, and Assessment of a Statewide, Regional, Leadership Program for School Nutrition Directors

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Abstract

A statewide professional development program was developed and implemented throughout California for school nutrition directors with the goal of creating healthy school environments and regional networks for collaboration and healthy school environment sustainability. Needs of school nutrition directors were identified through a needs assessment questionnaire. Results of the needs assessment questionnaire (n = 256) identified (a) planning cost-effective menus; (b) reducing calories, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in menus; and (c) using U.S. Department of Agriculture foods cost-effectively as the most useful topics. Highest rated topics informed the content of the professional development program. A post–professional development questionnaire identified key “insights, inspirations, and strategies” as (a) marketing of school foods program, (b) expansion of salad bars, and (c) collaboration with community partners. A 6-month follow-up questionnaire identified that 86% of participants made progress toward implementing at least one of their five insights, inspirations, and strategies in their school districts. Most common areas that were implemented were marketing and branding (32%), revamping salad bars (18%), and motivating staff (16%). School and Community Actions for Nutrition survey analysis showed a significant increase in the use of marketing methods in school nutrition programs from baseline to 6-month post–program implementation (p = .024).

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