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Connecting classroom and cafeteria in a School Wellness Initiative

Grenci, Alexandra, Hughes, Luanne J., Savoca, LeeAnne
The Journal of child nutrition & management 2011 v.35 no.1
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, attitudes and opinions, cafeterias, child nutrition, children, elementary schools, extension education, food service workers, fruit consumption, fruits, funding, health policy, health promotion, nutrition education, nutrition knowledge, nutritionists, school lunch, social marketing, teachers, vegetable consumption, vegetables, New Jersey
Purpose/Objectives The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all school districts participating in federally funded child nutrition programs to adopt and implement a school wellness policy by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. One drawback of this federal mandate was that it did not provide funding to assist with the development and implementation of school wellness policies. This lack of funding has been cited as a chief barrier to fully implementing these policies. The objective of this project was to determine if a collaborative school wellness project, which included community partners from Cooperative Extension, SNAP-Ed (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education), and New Jersey Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK-NJ), could enhance and expand children’s nutrition knowledge and behaviors by linking classroom education to the cafeteria. Methods The project team initiated a social marketing campaign during the 2007 and 2008 school years in two elementary schools within a New Jersey school district. Building on the messages presented in traditional SNAP-Ed nutrition lessons, it incorporated a variety of school-wide promotions and social marketing activities to supplement classroom education. At the end of each year, nutrition knowledge, behaviors and attitudes were compared to those at the beginning of the project. Investigators assessed changes in student, faculty and staff behaviors, as well as the overall school environment. Results As a result of this project, the project team saw a greater variety of fruits and vegetables now regularly offered on the school lunch menu; increases in student nutrition knowledge; increases in fruit and vegetable consumption by children; and significant increases in teachers’ willingness to actively participate in efforts that would improve the school wellness environment. Applications to Child Nutrition Professionals School foodservices should consider collaborating with Cooperative Extension and other community wellness providers to initiate educational/social marketing projects that link classroom nutrition education to the cafeteria and overall school environment.