Assessment of changes in school nutrition programs and school environment as a result of following the Healthier US School Challenge program
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The purpose of this study was to assess perceived changes in school nutrition programs and the school environment by school nutrition directors as a result of following the Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) program. All school nutrition directors at public school districts in the United States that had previously received an award from the HUSSC program were invited to participate in an online or mailed survey (N = 149). Seventy-six surveys were returned from twenty-nine states (51% response rate). Directors were asked their perceptions of changes in average lunch participation rate, food cost, labor cost, nutrition education (minutes per week), physical education (minutes per week), and student food purchases before and after receiving the award. They were also asked what challenges they faced and what activities led to success in receiving the award. Differences were analyzed according to: level of HUSSC award, director education level and credentials, and type of management and menu planning used for school nutrition programs. The three most frequent challenges reported were the increased food cost of implementing HUSSC, availability of whole grain items, and physical education requirements. Compared to the period prior to the award, average lunch participation had increased slightly to 78.5±13.6% while current nutrition education minutes per week (43.3±35.4), food cost ($1.33±0.65) and labor cost ($1.25±0.87) had increased significantly (p = 0.011, p = 0.002; p = 0.043, respectively).