Evaluate efficacy of a year-long local food sourcing promotional campaign on school nutrition programs’ (SNP) use of practices.
Use of Theory/Research
Previous research established the benefit of locally sourced foods including increased dietary quality and support of local economies. Prior research also identified barriers including lack of product availability, knowledge of regulations and personnel time.
Convenience sample of 25 Oklahoma SNP administrators/managers.
Multiple communication methods were employed during the 2018-2019 academic year to address perceived barriers to local food sourcing by SNPs. Methods included development and use of a fact sheet at 2 statewide SNP management training sessions, culinary chef consults and follow-up emails.
Management-level personnel completed hierarchical concept maps before and after the school year assisted by a trained research assistant. Two base questions assessed 1) procurement methods used and food types purchased, and 2) perceived barriers. Secondary data provided school demographic information. At post-assessment, research assistants queried about number of local food sourcing campaign trainings/contacts received.
Programs were self-operated (92%) and served grades K-12 (96%). Most were rurally located (60%), with <10,000 student enrollment (96%) and mid to high poverty (96%). There was no difference in local food purchasing by geographical location. At end-of-year, there was a 20% increase in the number of schools purchasing local foods. There was an increase in the number of food types purchased (P = 0.043, Cohen's d = 0.89). There was no difference pre to post in procurement methods used (P = 0.14) or perceived barriers (P = 0.056). The most often reported barrier was lack of product availability.
This study demonstrated efficacy of a campaign to increase SNPs’ use of local food sourcing. More work based on social-ecological and diffusion of innovation behavior change theories is needed to increase availability of product and address perceived cost/benefits to further expand diffusion of the practices.