Changes in School Food Preparation Methods Result in Healthier Cafeteria Lunches in Elementary Schools

Timothy K. Behrens, Mina L. Liebert, Hannah J. Peterson, Jennifer Howard Smith, Jay T. Sutliffe, Aubrey Day, Jodi Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of a districtwide food best practices and preparation changes in elementary schools lunches, implemented as part of the LiveWell@School childhood obesity program, funded by LiveWell Colorado/Kaiser Permanente Community Health Initiative. Methods: Longitudinal study examining how school changes in best practices for food preparation impacted the types of side items offered from 2009 to 2015 in elementary school cafeterias in a high-need school district in southern Colorado. Specifically, this study examined changes in side items (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, breads, and desserts). In Phase 1 (2009–2010), baseline data were collected. During Phase 2 (2010–2011), breaded and processed foods (e.g., frozen nuggets, pre-packaged pizza) were removed and school chefs were trained on scratch cooking methods. Phase 3 (2011–2012) saw an increased use of fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables after a new commodity order. During Phase 4 (2013–2015), chef consulting and training took place. The frequency of side offerings was tracked across phases. Analyses were completed in Fall 2016. Because of limited sample sizes, data from Phases 2 to 4 (intervention phases) were combined for potatoes and desserts. Descriptive statistics were calculated. After adjusting for length of time for each phase, Pearson chi-square tests were conducted to examine changes in offerings of side items by phase. Results: Fresh fruit offerings increased and canned fruit decreased in Phases 1–4 (p=0.001). A significant difference was observed for vegetables (p=0.001), with raw and steamed vegetables increasing and canned vegetables decreasing from Phase 1 to 4. Fresh potatoes (low in sodium) increased and fried potatoes (high in sodium) decreased from Phase 1 to Phases 2–4 (p=0.001). Breads were eliminated entirely in Phase 2, and dessert changes were not significant (p=0.927). Conclusions: This approach to promoting healthier lunch sides is a promising paradigm for improving elementary cafeteria food offerings. Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Building Thriving Communities Through Comprehensive Community Health Initiatives, which is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, Community Health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S139-S144
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Volume54
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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