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P055 ‘Silver Lining’: Encouraging Outcomes and Perceived Best Practices for Child Nutrition Directors During COVID-19 Pandemic

      Background

      COVID-19 pandemic school shutdowns impacted child food security. Resilient school meal programs are imperative to cope and persist through shocks and stressors.

      Objective

      To explore unforeseen positive outcomes and determine best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic for child nutrition directors in Mississippi (MS), Louisiana (LA), and West Virginia (WV).

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      A semi-structured focus group discussion guide was developed based on the resilience capacity model (RCM). Four focus group discussions with child nutrition directors (n = 16) from MS, LA, and WV were conducted to elicit directors’ perceptions of encouraging outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and best practices for building resilient school meal programs.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      The discussion guide was tested for content validation by subject experts and face validation by testing the guide in one focus group discussion session. The primary researcher developed a codebook based on the conceptual RCM. Two researchers independently reviewed and coded transcripts to assess interrater reliability. Predominant themes were identified using an inductive and deductive content analysis approach.

      Results

      Encouraging outcomes included acknowledgment of school nutrition staff as essential workers and recognition of child nutrition programs as important for child food security. Best practices recommended by child nutrition directors include effective communication and networking among all personnel from policymakers to staff involved in food preparation and distribution, revision of standard operating procedures to include disaster/pandemic related mitigation strategies, taking initiatives to improve school meal provision process, and emergency management training for everyone involved in school meal provision process. Director recommendations included: in-class food distribution, increased food storage, preparation, and distribution equipment, and developing a best practices policy document for each state with a comprehensive plan for emergency management situations.

      Conclusions

      Future emergency school nutrition policies should encourage efficient communication, revision of existing standard operating procedures, and implement training for all school nutrition personnel.

      Funding

      Achieving Equity Investment Grant 2021 (University of Mississippi)

      SUPPLEMENTARY DATA

      Supplementary data related to this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2022.04.095.

      Appendix. SUPPLEMENTARY DATA