Poster Abstract| Volume 48, ISSUE 7, SUPPLEMENT , S88-S89, July 2016

Teacher Perceptions of Multilevel Policies and the Influence on Nutrition Education in North Carolina Head Start Preschools


      The purpose of this study is to explore the effect of multilevel policies on nutrition education in North Carolina Head Start preschools.

      Design, Setting, and Participants

      Researchers conducted 32 semi-structured telephone interviews with North Carolina Head Start teachers.

      Outcome Measures and Analysis

      Interviews were transcribed and coded for emergent themes following a grounded theory approach.


      Interrelated themes were condensed into three broad categories, and a substantive-level model emerged to explain how policy-related factors (i.e. actual policies vs. policy perceptions) influenced nutrition education (e.g. frequency, strategies) and child-related outcomes (i.e. learning outcomes, exposure). Multilevel policies and teachers’ perceptions of those policies directly and indirectly affect the quality and frequency of nutrition education. For instance, teachers described sanitation policies that limited or restricted the use of food-based activities (e.g. taste testing, cooking), while policies regarding hygiene (e.g. hand washing) and regulatory schedules created time constraints in the classroom. Findings suggest that teachers’ perceive their ability to provide quality nutrition education in the classroom is most affected by policies at the state and center-level.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Although supportive of nutrition education, policies originating at the federal-level lead to competing priorities in the classroom (e.g. school readiness) and may conflict with the use of standardized nutrition education curricula (e.g. educating on child interest vs. using standard lessons). Additional research is needed to further investigate the origin, intentions, and implications of multilevel policies on nutrition education in the Head Start setting.