Child nutrition directors' perceptions of technology use in child nutrition programs
The purpose of this study was to investigate child nutrition directors (CNDs) perceptions of technology use in child nutrition programs (CNPs) in the Southwest Region of the United States. A questionnaire was developed by the researchers, validated by an expert panel using the Delphi technique, converted to an on-line format, and pilot tested. A randomized group of School Nutrition Association CNDs (N=500) along with a School Nutrition Services listserv were invited to participate via an on-line or a mailed questionnaire. Participants were asked to identify the types of technology/software they currently used. They also used Liken-type scales to rate effectiveness of software in assisting to meet goals, barriers to purchasing new technology/software, and importance of future technology/software purchases. A total of 111 CNDs completed the questionnaire. Results revealed that 70.3% of respondents perceived themselves as having advanced or expert computer skills. Office and menu/food related applications, specifically word processing, email, and POS systems, were used most often. CNDs found technology/software to be very effective in meeting regulatory related goals related to accurate state reimbursement claims, correct meal application processing/verification, and Coordinated Review Effort site visits. Older CNDs, with less education and who served fewer meals found inadequate funds, outdated computers, and lack of IT/administrative support to be barriers to purchasing new technology/software. However, CNDs with higher perceived computer skills and higher education levels were more likely to disagree with these bafflers. Overall, study respondents used a wide variety of technology/software programs to meet their operational needs. Results showed that CNDs with advanced/expert computer skills were utilizing the most technology/software (p=0.000), were more apt to rate technology/software as effective (p=0.011), and were less likely to agree with barriers to purchasing technology/software (p=0.003). Although these results are encouraging, there are still many CNDs who have not implemented technology/software applications that could reduce program costs and improve productivity. The child nutrition industry needs leaders who can develop mentorship programs, initiate computer skill building classes, and develop online training for this group of CNDs.