January 2009

Grant Results

SUMMARY

Samuels & Associates conducted six training sessions in 2006 and 2007 for school, nutrition and public health personnel and others involved in developing, implementing and monitoring school nutrition and wellness policies.

Key Results

  • Some 510 people participated in at least one of six workshops in conjunction with meetings of national and California professionals. The training sessions varied in length from 90 minutes to a half-day depending on the needs of the groups.
  • Participants learned how to employ user-friendly monitoring and assessment tools to conduct school nutrition environmental assessments, school marketing and advertising assessments and fiscal analyses.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with an unsolicited program contract of $76,824 from June 2006 to December 2007.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

As concern has increased over rising rates of childhood obesity, states and local jurisdictions have sought to implement nutrition policies in schools as a way to help prevent children from becoming overweight or obese. Many jurisdictions, however, lack people who have the training and expertise to monitor the impact of these policies, according to Samuels & Associates, an Oakland, Calif., consulting firm specializing in public health evaluation, research and policy.

In 2004, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the California Endowment sponsored the National Evaluation and Measurement Meeting on School Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies. Participants at the meeting recommended that local capacity to implement and evaluate school nutrition policies be developed through training and technical assistance, and that common measures be developed across school districts. Samuels & Associates completed a report on the meeting, which is available online. See also RWJF's Grant Results on ID# 050063.

With support from RWJF (see Grant Results on ID# 050462) Samuels & Associates identified a variety of barriers to implementing and monitoring nutrition policies in six California school districts, including:

  • Confusion about how to interpret and apply the nutrition policies.
  • Lack of clear responsibility for monitoring.
  • Concerns of school districts about decreased revenue resulting from restrictions on sales of unregulated competitive foods (i.e., foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, in school stores or as fundraisers).

A report on the study is also available online.

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RWJF STRATEGY

RWJF emphasizes environmental and policy change as its primary approach in achieving that goal. The Foundation has developed three integrated strategies to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic:

  • Build Evidence. Investments in building evidence regarding effective strategies will help ensure that the most promising efforts are replicated. RWJF's research efforts in building evidence include three national programs:
    • Active Living Research supports research to identify environmental factors and policies that influence children's physical activity. Also see Grant Results on the program.
    • Healthy Eating Research supports research on environmental and policy strategies to promote healthy eating among children to prevent childhood obesity — especially among low-income, racial and ethnic groups at highest risk for obesity.
    • Bridging the Gap: Research Informing Practice and Policy for Healthy Youth Behavior. Its ImpacTeen project has started a Food and Fitness project collecting and reporting comprehensive information on food environments and student physical activity in a nationally representative sample of elementary (K–5) schools, as well as comprehensive information on district-level wellness and other policies that potentially impact childhood obesity.
    In building evidence regarding effective strategies, RWJF also seeks to evaluate innovative approaches in states, schools and communities. RWJF brings together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to talk about measurement tools, research strategies and ways to make research useful to states and communities.
  • Prompt Action. RWJF's action strategy for communities and schools focuses on engaging partners at the local level, building coalitions and promoting the most promising approaches.
  • Educate and Advocate. RWJF shares results gleaned from the evidence and action strategies by educating leaders and investing in advocacy, building a broad national constituency for preventing childhood obesity.

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THE PROJECT

Samuels & Associates conducted six training sessions throughout the United States for school administrators, school nutritionists and food services personnel, public health personnel and others involved in developing, implementing and monitoring school nutrition and wellness policies.

The project team modeled the training sessions after a pilot training session they held during the January 2006 annual meeting of the California School Nutrition Association, which convened school food service directors from across the state.

The training sessions varied in length from 90 minutes to a half-day and were tailored to the needs of individual groups.

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RESULTS

  • Some 510 people participated in at least one of six workshops in conjunction with meetings of national and California professionals. The organizations convening the meetings and the meeting locations were:
    • Society for Nutrition Education, San Francisco.
    • California Childhood Obesity Conference, Anaheim, Calif.
    • American Dietetic Association, Portland, Ore.
    • School Nutrition Association, Chicago.
    • California School Boards Association School Wellness Conference, Anaheim, Calif.
    • RWJF Healthy Eating Research Program Annual Conference, Minneapolis.
    (See Appendix for more details about the meetings.)
  • Sessions taught participants to conduct school nutrition environmental assessments, school marketing and advertising assessments and fiscal analyses. Training included use of such tools as:
    • Hands-on exercises using a paper and pencil school-food-inventory tool to catalogue and assess the nutrient profile of typical school snack foods based on California's school-nutrition standards.
    • A checklist for analyzing the location, contents and accessibility of school beverage and food vending machines.
    • A financial analysis tip sheet with strategies for making the case that selling healthier food in school will not lead to lower revenue.
    • Sample questions to include in surveys of key stakeholders — district food service supervisors and school administrators, for example — as part of the process of developing, implementing and monitoring school nutrition policy.
  • The project team reported that as a result of attending the workshops, participants said they learned how to:
    • Employ user-friendly monitoring and assessment tools to collect data.
    • Use assessment data to understand the school nutrition environment.
    • Identify opportunities to provide leadership for implementing and monitoring school nutrition policies.

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AFTER THE GRANT

Samuels & Associates conducted additional American Dietetic Association training sessions in May and June 2008 and was invited to conduct another session in spring 2009.

The project team is collaborating with a research team at the University of California, Berkeley College of Natural Resources, Center for Weight and Health, on an RWJF-funded study through Healthy Eating Research (ID# 057926) to evaluate the impact of new food and beverage standards in California high schools.

The center is assessing the impact of this legislation in 50 randomly selected public high schools. Data is being collected on the effect of these changes on: the food environment and on students' participation in school meal programs, the financial operations of the food service departments, other school entities that sell food and beverages on campus, and students' intake of soda, chips, French fries and foods that are more nutrient dense such as fruit, vegetables, milk and yogurt.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Training on School Nutrition Policy Implementation and Monitoring

Grantee

Samuels & Associates (Oakland,  CA)

  • Amount: $ 76,824
    Dates: June 2006 to December 2007
    ID#:  056800

Contact

Sarah E. Samuels, Dr.P.H.
(510) 271-6799
sarah@samuelsandassociates.com

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

School Nutrition Policy Training Sessions

Society for Nutrition Education
July 17, 2006
San Francisco, Calif.

California Childhood Obesity Conference
Pre Conference Workshop
January 23, 2007
Anaheim, Calif.

American Dietetic Association
Certificate of Training in Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management
March 22, 2007
Portland, Ore.

School Nutrition Association
July 16, 2007
Chicago, Ill.

California School Boards Association School Wellness Conference
October 1, 2007
Anaheim, Calif.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program Annual Conference
October 2007
Minneapolis, Minn.

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Report prepared by: Richard Camer
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: C. Tracy Orleans