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Evaluation of Cooking for Kids: Culinary Training Program for Oklahoma School Child Nutrition Professionals on Students’ Consumption of School Meals

      Objective

      Determine if Cooking for Kids culinary training affected availability of freshly prepared foods in school meals, the extent to which marketing strategies were implemented and students’ meal component consumption before and after training.

      Description

      The 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act improved the nutritional quality of school meals; but created implementation strategies for schools including lack of kitchen infrastructure, staffs’ time and culinary skills to prepare meals, and concerns that students would not be accepting of new foods. Cooking for Kids, developed under the principles of the Community Readiness Model, utilizes professional chefs to teach essential culinary skills and on-site consultations to address menu planning related practices specific to a school district.

      Evaluation

      A meal component consumption analysis was conducted in spring 2014 (681 matched trays) and fall 2016 (537 matched trays) in three pilot schools. Personal interviews were conducted with the Child Nutrition Director (CND) at each school to evaluate changes in use of convenience foods and marketing strategies from pre- to post-intervention. Schools used less convenience foods for entrees and offered more salad bars. There was no negative impact on entree consumption (P= 0.878), an increase in grain (P= 0.011) and fruit (P= 0.000) meal components and a decrease in vegetable consumption (P= 0.000).

      Conclusions and Implications

      If schools focus on preparing food from scratch and incorporate marketing strategies, students’ consumption of school meals may improve. Further use of marketing strategies, especially for vegetables, may be beneficial.

      Funding

      Oklahoma State Department of Education Child Nutrition Services

      Supplementary data