TitleThe Role of School Foodservice Personnel in Nutrition Education: Challenges and Opportunities at U.S. Elementary Schools
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsPerera, T, Wong, SS, Frei, B, Bobe, G
JournalJournal of Health Education Research & Development
Date Published01/2015

The food environment at school plays an important role in promoting healthy food choices in students. In our previous study, classroom teachers were concerned about some of the meal options offered at their school cafeteria and wanted a school cafeteria component as part of a successful nutrition education program. In response, our first objective was to evaluate the nutritional quality of school meals at Oregon elementary schools. We learned that unless students ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables from the salad bar, school menus did not meet the nutrition standards for fruits (99%) and vegetables (100%). As the second objective, we asked Oregon elementary school foodservice personnel (SFP) in a cross-sectional, anonymous mail survey if and how they should be involved in nutrition education programs. Of the 59 SFP who responded, all perceived that nutrition education in elementary schools is somewhat to very important and 76% perceived that they should be involved in a successful nutrition education program. They were interested in nutrition education training (75%) but noted multiple barriers for incorporating the school cafeteria into nutrition education programs, the primary were cost (66%), time (58%), and potential teaching commitments. SFP wanted to be involved in nutrition education through nutrition posters in the cafeteria (58%) and new recipes and food items (56%). In conclusion, SFP are highly motivated to participate in nutrition education programs through activities in the school cafeteria that do not involve teaching. Renewed focus should be on developing and implementing nutrition education programs that provide SFP with training and new recipes and food items that are nutritious, affordable, easy and quick to prepare, and appealing to students so that nutrition information delivered in the classroom can be reinforced in the school cafeteria.