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Volume 37, Issue 2, Fall 2013 - Rushing

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Administering School Lunch Participation and Non-Participation Based Surveys to Middle School Students

Keith Rushing, PhD, RD

ABSTRACT

In 2012 Castillo, Lofton, and Nettles developed and validated two surveys to assess middle school student’s participation and non-participation with the National School Lunch Program. Rushing (2012) developed a step-by-step guide for administering the surveys, interpreting the results, and creating continuous quality improvement action plans to address student concerns.

Introduction

Research show that students who participate in the National Lunch Program (NSLP) are significantly more likely to consume milk, fruit, and vegetable, and significantly less likely to consume desserts, snack items, and beverages other than milk or 100% fruit juice compared to student that do not participate in the NSLP (Condon, Crepinsek, & Fox, 2009). Unfortunately, school lunch participation drops off in middle school and continues a steady decline throughout high school (Fox, et al., 2012; Gordon et al., 2007; Litchfield & Wentz, 2011).

Around middle school age, young adolescents begin to seek the freedom to make their own decisions, such as whether or not they will eat school lunch, and if so, what they will select and eat from the food choices offered (Roseman & Niblock, 2006). Therefore, school nutrition (SN) professionals need to investigate middle/junior high school students’ perceptions, wants, and needs related to the school foodservice operation before making decisions related to products and services if they want to satisfy these customers and retain them once they enter high school (Castillo, Lofton, & Nettles, 2010).

Description of Surveys

In 2012 Castillo and Lofton developed and validated two surveys to assess middle/junior high school student’s participation and non-participation with the NSLP. The non-participation survey is designed to identify why students choose not eat school lunch, while the participation survey is designed to reveal student’s perceptions and satisfaction with the SN program. The non-participation survey should be used when a SN program has a very low rate of participation at the middle/junior high level or the number of free/reduced price eligible students is greater than the average daily participation. The participation survey should be used when a SN program has a high participation rate at the middle/junior high level, a low potential for growth, or a large percentage of paying students.

The validated Middle/Junior High School Student Participation Survey is composed of three parts (Figure 1). Section one of the survey provides specific reasons why students participate in the NSLP. Students are instructed to use the phrase “When I eat school lunch…” before each of 24 statements about SN program attributes and indicate their level of agreement with each statement by using a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). In Section Two, students are asked to “Please choose the top five reasons why you eat school lunch”…” for a list of 14 statements. This section provides the SN director a quick snapshot of key factors that will influence the student’s decision to start eating school lunches more frequently. Section Three includes questions on grade level and gender to provide the SN director demographic information to further understand trends within the subgroups of students. As requested by SN directors, a question on frequency of participation per week was added to ensure that the student is appropriate for the sample. Several SN directors suggested that individual programs may choose to include a section for student comments.

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Figure 1. Middle/Junior High School Student Participation Survey

The validated Middle/Junior High School student Non-Participation Survey is composed of three parts (Figure 2.). Section one of the survey provides specific reasons why students do not participate in the NSLP. Students are instructed to use the phrase “My reason for not eating school lunches is that…” before each of 24 statements about SN program attributes and indicate their level of agreement with each statement by using a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). In Section Two, students are asked to “Please choose the top five reasons that would encourage you to eat school lunch more often”…” for a list of 14 statements. This section provides the SN director a quick snapshot of key factors that will influence the student’s decision to start eating school lunches more frequently. Section Three includes questions on grade level and gender to provide the SN director demographic information to further understand trends within the subgroups of students. As requested by SN directors, a question on frequency of participation per week was added to ensure that the student is appropriate for the sample. Several SN directors suggested that individual programs may choose to include a section for student comments.

In 2012 Rushing developed a step-by-step Web based guide for administering these middle/junior high school student surveys, interpreting the results, and creating continuous quality improvement action plans to address student concerns. The completed resource resulting from this project contains the following seven sections, which are designed to guide the SN director and/or manager through the survey process: 1) Introduction; 2) Planning for Survey Administration; 3) Survey Options; 4) Administering the Survey; 5) Tabulating and Interpreting Results; 6) Developing a Customer Service Action Plan Using the Continuous Quality Improvement Process; and 7) Appendices.

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Figure 2. Middle/Junior High School Student Non-Participation Survey

The “Introduction” provides a brief overview of the resource and the benefits of conducting the customer service surveys. “Planning for Survey Administration” provides the SN director and/or manager guidance for choosing members of the survey team, timing of surveys, and frequency of survey administration. The section “Survey Options” not only describes each of the middle/junior high school student surveys, but also provides guidance for deciding which survey to utilize and how to select participants. Contained in the section “Administering the Survey” are checklists for SN directors and/or managers to refer to as they go through the survey process from pre-planning to the day after the survey is completed. Step-by-step instructions for using the Microsoft Excel templates are provided in the section “Tabulating and Interpreting Results,” while instructions for utilizing results are provided in the section “Developing a Customer Service Action Plan Using the Continuous Quality Improvement Process.” The “Appendices” includes copies of the surveys, parental consent templates, student assent statements, and memos to principals and/or teachers for surveys.

Recommendations

The step-by-step Web-based guide was developed utilizing expert advice from a small number of practicing professionals. An evaluation system for SN directors using the developed materials is recommended to validate the usefulness and effectiveness of the guide and the surveys. It would be beneficial to investigate district administrators’ and school principals’ evaluations of the guide to provide feedback about their roles in planning and administering the surveys.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors thank the school nutrition directors who assisted with this study. This publication has been produced by the National Food Service Management Institute – Applied Research Division, located at The University of Southern Mississippi with headquarters at The University of Mississippi. Funding for the Institute has been provided with federal funds from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to The University of Mississippi. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The University of Mississippi or the U. S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. government.

The information provided in this manuscript is the result of independent research produced by NFSMI and is not necessarily in accordance with U. S. Department of Agriculture FNS policy. FNS is the federal agency responsible for all federal domestic child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program. Individuals are encouraged to contact their local child nutrition program sponsor and/or their Child Nutrition State Agency should there appear to be a conflict with the information contained herein, and any state or federal policy that governs the associated Child Nutrition Program. For more information on the federal child nutrition programs, please visit www.fns.usda.gov/cnd.

REFERENCES

Castillo, A., & Lofton, K. L. (2012). Development of middle/junior high school student surveys to measure factors that impact participation in and satisfaction with the National School Lunch Program. University, MS: National Food Service Management Institute. Retrieved from http://www.nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20120402024129.pdf

Castillo, A., Lofton, K.L., & Nettles, M. F. (2010). Determining factors impacting the decision of middle/junior high school students to participate in the National School Lunch Program. University, MS: National Food Service Management Institute. Retrieved from http://www.nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20110405033503.pdf

Condon, E. M., Crepinsek, M. K., & Fox, M. K. (2009). School meals: Types of foods offered to and consumed by children at lunch and breakfast. Journal of the American Dietetic Association,109(2), S67-S78. doi: 110.1016/j.jada.2008.10.062

Fox, M. K., Condon, E., Crepinsek, M. K., Niland, K., Mecury, D., Forrestal, S.,. . . Killewald, A. (2012). School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study-IV: Volume I: School foodservice operations, school environments,and meals offered and served (CN-12-SNDA). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/Ora/menu/Published/CNP/FILES/SNDA-IV_Vol1Pt1.pdf

Gordon, A., Fox, K. M., Clark, M., Nogales, R., Condon, E., Gleason, P., & Sarin, A. (2007). School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study-III: Volume II: Student participation and dietary intakes (CN-07-SNDA-III). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/Ora/menu/Published/CNP/FILES/SNDAIII-Vol2.pdf

Litchfield, R. E., & Wenz, B. (2011). Influence of school environment on student lunch participation and competitive food sales. Journal of Child Nutrition & Management, 35(1), 9. Retrieved from: http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Content.aspx?id=15325

Roseman, M. & Niblock, J.R. (2006). A culinary approach to healthy menu items: Middle school students’ opinion of school lunch and lunch decision factors. Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, 5(1), 75-90. doi:10.1300/J385v05n01_08

Rushing, K. (2012). A guide for administering school lunch satisfaction and participation based surveys to middle school students. University, MS: National Food Service Management Institute.


 
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