Objective: The purpose of the study was to evaluate a school dining redesign in a large school district in California. Outcomes included school lunch participation, student intake of fruits and vegetables, and teacher promotion of school meals.
Description: Using a quasi-experimental controlled trial design, we present results from the first year of a 2-year implementation of a 3-pronged intervention: dining room redesign, distributed points of sale of school lunch, and staff promotion of school meals. Linear regression models were used to compare changes from 2016 to 2017 in survey responses from 7th-10th grade students and teachers from 12 middle and high schools compared to 12 control schools. Models of student survey data were adjusted for race/ethnicity, gender and grade. Changes from 2016–2017 in school lunch participation were adjusted for school enrollment, free and reduced price meal enrollment, and student race/ethnicity.
Evaluation: Surveys were collected from over 8,000 students and over 500 teachers. Half of students were Asian, 17% Latino, 10% White, 4% African-American. Significantly more students in intervention compared to control schools reported eating school breakfast and getting lunch from a mobile school cart. More intervention students indicated that they liked the fruit served with lunch, staff encouraged them to eat school lunch, and the school lunch was healthier than foods from elsewhere. Compared to teachers at control schools, teachers at intervention schools reported more often eating the school lunch, and eating from the healthy student vending machines as opposed to the traditional staff vending machines. No increases in the weekly frequency of students eating fruits and vegetables or in teachers promoting school meals to students were detected. Trends in school lunch participation appear promising.
Conclusions and Implications: Preliminary outcome data suggest that a school dining redesign may be effective in improving student perceptions of school meals and participation in school lunch. Future analyses will include 2-year results and assessment of school meal waste.
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