Volume 28, Issue 1, Spring 2004, Spring 2004
Evaluation of the Dissemination and Implementation of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program in Texas
By Christine McCullum, PhD, RD; Deanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS; Jill M. Eagan, MPH, RD; Jerri L. Ward, MA, RD, LD; Steven H. Kelder, PhD, MPH; Cristina S. Barroso, MPH
Surveys were mailed to school foodservice directors of all elementary schools in Texas in which CATCH Eat Smart trainings took place during the 2000-01 school year (n=202). Subsequently, the surveys were distributed to the foodservice managers at the individual school cafeterias. Data were analyzed using SPSS and descriptive statistics were computed.
Eighty-one school foodservice personnel responded to the survey. Respondents were mainly female (n=71) and the most commonly reported position held was manager (n=73). Seventy respondents agreed or strongly agreed that CATCH Eat Smart guidelines were beneficial and 64 believed that using CATCH Eat Smart guidelines enabled them to meet the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient standards. Sixty-eight respondents reported attending one CATCH Eat Smart training session. Of these, 60 reported following CATCH Eat Smart recipes by measuring ingredients with standardized measuring utensils and serving menu items with traditional serving utensils. Fifty-three reported purchasing and using foods that met CATCH Eat Smart criteria for fat and sodium. The most commonly reported perceived barriers to preparing foods lower in fat and sodium included student food preferences; a lack of student, parent, and teacher support; inadequate training for school foodservice personnel; and insufficient time.
Applications to Child Nutrition Professionals
Enhancement of the student, parent, and community components of the program may increase acceptance of foods lower in fat and sodium for school meals. Emphasizing school foodservice- classroom links and the commitment of school administrators to the meals program may facilitate the implementation of the child nutrition services component of the coordinated school health program.
Please note that this study was published before the implementation of Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which went into effect during the 2012-13 school year, and its provision for Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards for Competitive Food in Schools, implemented during the 2014-15 school year. As such, certain research may not be relevant today.
The impact of a school-based health promotion program depends not only on its efficacy, but also on the extent to which it reaches its target audience (Kolbe, 1986; Parcel, 1995). Once a program has been found to be effective through research-based evaluation, dissemination efforts can enable its distribution on a wider scale. However, there are several studies that have evaluated the dissemination of school-based health promotion programs (Harvey-Berino et al., 1998; Olson et al., 1993; Parcel et al., 1989; Steckler et al., 1992), and only one of these, the Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH), that has described the use of a school foodservice program (Hoelscher et al., 2001). The CATCH program has been renamed to as a “Coordinated Approach to Child Health,” which reflects the current focus on dissemination while maintaining use of the program’s acronym (Hoelscher et al., 2001).
CATCH is a school-based health education study aimed at decreasing cardiovascular risk factors in children (Luepker et al., 1996; Perry et al., 1990; Perry et al., 1997; Stone et al., 1996). It is designed to be a multi-component, multi-year coordinated school health program (Centers for Disease Control Coordinated School Health Program, 2002) that includes classroom curriculum, a complementary family component, physical education (PE) curriculum, a school foodservice program (CATCH Eat Smart), and tobacco-free school policy recommendations. The controlled clinical trial of CATCH was conducted in 96 schools (56 intervention, 40 control) at four sites (California, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas).
Results show that the school environment, including the composition of school lunch, changed significantly during the main trial. Intervention cafeterias offered school meals that were significantly lower in total fat and saturated fat as compared to those offered by the control schools (Luepker et al., 1996; Osganian et al., 1996). Physical education classes in the intervention schools showed a significantly greater proportion of time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity than classes in control schools (Nader et al., 1999). Children from CATCH intervention schools also had a lower consumption of total fat and saturated fat, and higher levels of self-reported physical activity than children from the control schools (Luepker et al., 1996).
Children who participated in CATCH maintained their individual level results for three years (until 8th Grade) without further involvement (Nader et al, 1999). Since 1997, CATCH has been disseminated in Texas as a “Coordinated Approach to Child Health” (Hoelscher et al., 2001) and uses strategies derived from Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 1995) and Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). The goal of the program is to provide low-cost materials, training, and support so that elementary schools in Texas can implement CATCH effectively.
The CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program was designed to reduce the total fat, saturated fat, and sodium content in school meals while maintaining student participation and acceptance. It targets four major areas of school foodservice: 1) menu planning, 2) food purchasing, 3) preparation of foods, and 4) promotion. A central element of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program is a list of 30 guidelines, or concrete behaviors, for school foodservice personnel to implement. Being behaviorally based, the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program provides school foodservice personnel with the flexibility to make changes gradually throughout the school year. More details on the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program have been reported elsewhere (Nicklas et al., 1994).
In 2000, a state-level CATCH Eat Smart coordinator was hired in Texas by the University of Texas, Houston School of Public Health to allow a more systematic targeting of the child nutrition services program, facilitate the creation of new training models and materials, and assist in the development of an evaluation component. Sixteen four-to-eight hour training sessions were conducted at school district offices during the 2000-01 school year to disseminate the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program and target all school foodservice personnel at the elementary-school level. These trainings included techniques to lower total fat, saturated fat, and sodium in menu planning and food preparation. The sessions were designed to initiate dialogue between school foodservice personnel and other school staff and facilitate school-wide program implementation. The training consisted of structured activities designed to increase participants’ self-efficacy, so that they gained confidence in their ability to implement the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program in their foodservice operations. Participants also viewed a training video that included testimonials and peers modeling the appropriate behaviors. Supporting materials for the program included the CATCH Eat Smart Program manual, the CATCH Eat Smart Guidelines poster, and a CATCH training video. The purpose of this paper is to describe the dissemination and subsequent implementation of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program in Texas, using evaluation data from Year One of the dissemination survey.
Surveys, along with a cover letter, were mailed to school foodservice directors at all elementary schools in Texas in which CATCH Eat Smart training sessions had been conducted during the 2000-01 school year (n=202). Subsequently, the school foodservice directors distributed the surveys to all foodservice managers in individual school cafeterias. Managers returned completed surveys to the investigators in self-addressed stamped envelopes. The Committee for Protection of Human Subjects at The University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health approved all research protocols.
The survey consisted of 17 questions, which took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Survey items included questions concerning demographic information, self-efficacy, attitudes and beliefs, and perceived barriers. Most items were scored using a five-item Likert scale (1=strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree). Participants were asked how many CATCH Eat Smart training sessions they attended and the total number of training hours they had accumulated. In addition, participants were asked several yes/no items, including 1) “Do you have any CATCH Eat Smart materials available for use at your school?” and 2) “By the end of the school year, will you have actually used any of the Eat Smart guidelines in preparing school meals?” Participants also were given the opportunity to provide open-ended comments on how to improve the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program.
Implementation of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program in the school cafeterias was evaluated using a yes/no checklist that assessed adherence to CATCH Eat Smart Guidelines. The survey instrument used in this study was adapted from an earlier CATCH survey, which was evaluated for face validity, pilot tested with school foodservice personnel who did not participate in the program, and used to collect data for the CATCH institutionalization study (Hoelscher et al., in press).
Data from the surveys were analyzed using SPSS (Version 11, Chicago, IL). For each survey item, descriptive statistics, including frequencies, percents, means, standard deviation, variance, and range, were computed. Qualitative responses also were recorded and tabulated.
Results And Discussion
Respondents and Characteristics
A total of 81 foodservice personnel from schools participating in the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program training during the 2000-01 school year responded to the survey. The most frequently reported position held was manager (n=73), with assistant director (n=2), cook (n=1), and “other” (n=1) also reported. The majority of respondents were female (n=71) and the most common ethnic background of respondents was Hispanic (n=55) and white (n=21). The mean respondent age was 50 years old. The mean number of years employed at the school was 12 and the mean number of years employed in school foodservice was 15.
Respondent’s Beliefs and Self-efficacy
Overall, respondents indicated a high level of acceptance of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program and confidence in their ability to implement the program. Fifty-two respondents reported that they would use CATCH Eat Smart guidelines in preparing school meals by the end of the school year. Seventy respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that CATCH Eat Smart guidelines were beneficial, 64 reported that using CATCH Eat Smart guidelines enabled them to meet USDA nutrient goals, and 59 believed that children who participated in the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program would continue to make healthy eating choices as a result of the program. Sixty-nine respondents believed that it was important to encourage elementary school children to eat a diet low in fat and 59 believed it was important to encourage a diet low in sodium for elementary-aged school children. Forty-six respondents reported being confident in their ability to prepare foods low in fat and 38 reported being confident in their ability to prepare foods low in sodium.
Implementation of the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program
Sixty-eight respondents reported attending one CATCH Eat Smart training session during the 2000-01 school year. The mean number of training hours attended was six. Sixty respondents reported following CATCH Eat Smart recipes by measuring ingredients with standardized measuring utensils and serving menu items with traditional serving utensils, and 53 respondents reported purchasing and using foods that meet CATCH Eat Smart criteria for fat and sodium.
Table 1 highlights respondents’ compliance with CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program strategies to reduce the fat and sodium content in school meals. Practices reported as being in highest compliance included offering skim, nonfat, lowfat, plain, or flavored milk (n=63); draining fat from meat (n=61); increasing use of fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits (n=61); baking, broiling, roasting, or stewing beef, pork, chicken, and fish instead of frying (n=60); reducing or eliminating salt from recipes for meat and meat alternatives (n=60); reducing or eliminating butter, oil, margarine, and animal fat added to vegetables (n=60); using non-stick coating spray or pan liners instead of greasing pans for grains and breads (n=60); using skim, lowfat, or nonfat dry milk in cooking grains and breads (n=59); using skim, lowfat, or nonfat dry milk in cooking other foods and desserts (n=59); and using non-stick coating spray or pan liners instead of greasing pans for other foods and desserts (n=59). Table 2 summarizes the respondents’ perceived barriers in preparing foods lower in fat and sodium in school meals. The most commonly reported perceived barriers were student food preferences; a lack of student, parent, and teacher support; inadequate training for foodservice personnel; and not enough time.
|Table 1: School Foodservice Personnel’s Self-Reported Compliance for Implementing the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Eat Smart Strategies to
Reduce the Fat and Sodium Content of School Meals (N=81).
|Reported Compliance||Missing Responses|
|Meat and Meat Alternatives|
|Drain fat from cooked meat.||61/62||19|
|Bake, broil, roast, or stew beef, pork, chicken, and fish instead of frying.||60/62||19|
|Reduce the salt in recipes or eliminate.||60/62||19|
|Use water, beef base seasoning (low sodium when possible), and flour, or make a dry roux for gravy. Do not add pan drippings.||
|Drain canned meat, poultry, and seafood to reduce sodium.||56/59||22|
|Defat broth to use in recipes.||50/59||22|
|Reduce the amount of regular cheese or mix part-skim with regular cheese.||51/62||19|
|Remove skin and fat from chicken and turkey. Bake with no added fat.||48/61||20|
|Trim all visible fat from beef and pork before cooking it.||48/62||19|
|Try adding peas and dry beans to entrée||36/59||22|
|Offer skim, nonfat or lowfat plain or flavored milk.||63/63||18|
|Vegetables and Fruit|
|Increase use of fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits.||61/61||20|
|Reduce or eliminate butter, oil, margarine, and animal fat added to vegetables.||
|Drain canned vegetables to reduce sodium content.||58/61||20|
|Increase use of fresh, frozen, or unsalted canned vegetables and salads.||58/61||20|
|Reduce or eliminate salt added to vegetables.||58/62||19|
|Use more garlic, onion powder, herbs, and spices without added salt.||54/61||20|
|Bake all potato products.||53/61||20|
|Reduce the amount of mayonnaise, sour cream, and oil, or substitute low-fat or nonfat yogurt in salad dressings and other recipes.||
|If using butter, whip it before using in recipes or food preparation.||43/62||19|
|Try adding dry peas and dry beans to salad recipes.||33/60||21|
|Grains and Breads|
|Use non-stick coating spray or pan liners instead of greasing pans.||60/62||19|
|Use skim, lowfat, or nonfat dry milk in cooking.||60/62||20|
|Reduce or eliminate butter on the school lunch and breakfast lines.||57/61||20|
|Gradually reduce the amount of fat used in recipes. Replace butter or shortening with vegetable oil or margarine whenever possible.||
|Reduce or eliminate butter, oil, margarine, and animal fat added to pasta and rice.||
|Reduce or eliminate butter and mayonnaise added to breads.||56/61||20|
|Reduce or eliminate salt added to pasta and rice.||52/61||20|
|If using butter, whip it before using in recipes or food preparation.||43/60||21|
|Use egg whites rather than whole eggs||35/59||22|
|Other Foods and Desserts|
|Use skim, lowfat, or nonfat dry milk in cooking.||59/61||20|
|Use non-stick coating spray or pan liners instead of greasing pans.||59/62||19|
|Gradually reduce the amount of fat used in recipes. Replace butter or shortening with oil or margarine whenever possible.||
|If using butter, whip it before using in recipes or food preparation.||42/59||22|
|Use egg whites instead of whole eggs.||34/60||21|
|Table 2: Perceived Barriers Reported by School Foodservice Personnel in Preparing Foods Lower in Fat and Sodium in School Meals (N=81).|
Perceived Barriers to Preparing Foods Lower in Fat and Sodium
|Mean (Standard Deviation) 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree|
|Student Food Preferences||3.47 (1.22)|
|Lack of Student Support||3.19 (1.04)|
|Lack of Parent Support||3.09 (1.07)|
|Lack of Teacher Support||2.95 (1.11)|
|Lack of Adequate Training||2.92 (1.22)|
|Not Enough Time||2.85 (1.18)|
|Lack of Principal Support||2.70 (1.05)|
|School Meal Patterns||2.70 (1.14)|
|Lack of Support at the District Level||2.68 (1.11)|
|Lack of Ingredients||2.49 (1.10)|
|Lack of Foodservice Staff Support||2.49 (1.14)|
|Too Hard to Prepare||2.43 (1.0)|
Utilization of CATCH Smart Materials and Program Satisfaction
Fifty-two respondents reported having CATCH Eat Smart materials available for use at their schools. Of these, 32 and 34 individuals, respectively, reported having an Eat Smart manual and an Eat Smart poster. Of those who had CATCH Eat Smart materials, 24 said it was likely that they would use the Eat Smart manual the following year and 26 said they would use the Eat Smart poster. Sixty respondents said they were satisfied with CATCH Eat Smart guidelines and 67 said they would recommend the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program to other school foodservice managers. Forty-two perceived that students were satisfied with the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition program. Suggestions for improving the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program included offering more trainings (n=9), involving other school staff in the trainings (e.g. coaches, school nurses, school counselors, and school managers) (n=7), and having more parental and community involvement with the program (n=5).
Results from this research illustrate that the majority of school foodservice personnel believe that it is important to encourage elementary school children to eat a diet low in fat and sodium. These results are similar to findings by Fulkerson, French, Story, Snyder, and Paddock (2002), who reported that most school foodservice personnel agree that schools have a responsibility to provide healthful foods to students.
In this current study, the strategies reported as being practiced the least often by school foodservice personnel included removing fat and skin from meat; trimming fat from meat; whipping butter before using it in recipes or food preparation; adding egg whites rather than whole eggs when preparing grains, breads, other foods, and desserts; and adding peas and dry beans to entrees and vegetables. The infrequent use of these techniques may have been due to the types of food purchased (i.e. pre-prepared food items; decreased availability of commodity butter; budgeting and time constraints; and lack of knowledge and skills).
The most commonly reported perceived barriers to preparing foods lower in fat and sodium reported in this study were similar to findings by Fulkerson et al. (2002) who found that common reasons given by school foodservice personnel for students not purchasing healthful foods in the school cafeteria were that their friends did not eat them and that students did not like them.
Based on the current findings, future CATCH Eat Smart trainings may need to place more emphasis on identifying student leaders who can facilitate the program’s implementation, involving students more actively in the program, and placing more emphasis on preparing and serving healthful foods that students will eat. For example, taste tests could be conducted with students in the school cafeteria to identify healthful foods prepared by school foodservice personnel that receive high student ratings for taste and acceptability.
Adequate teacher support is a crucial factor in the implementation of school-based child nutrition programs. Research by McKenna (in press), which assessed the implementation of nutrition policies in schools with teachers, school principals, and departmental educators, found that teachers were unlikely to be aware of the importance of school foodservice-classroom links unless they were provided with additional guidance. Teachers’ implementation decisions also were influenced by their perceptions about the level of the commitment to implementation by the policy agency (e.g. the provincial Department of Education). Therefore, school-based child nutrition training programs may need to place more emphasis on coordinating cafeteria-based nutrition education activities with the classroom teachers’ activities. Training programs also should highlight the policy agency’s commitment to school-based child nutrition programs.
Conclusions And Application
The results from this research indicate that the CATCH Eat Smart School Nutrition Program is being implemented in elementary schools where school foodservice personnel have been trained. Barriers to its implementation suggest that continued training and the involvement of other school staff, such as classroom teachers, coaches, school nurses, and counselors, need to be emphasized in future CATCH training sessions. Enhancement of the student, parent, and community components of the program may increase acceptance of foods lower in fat and sodium for school meals.
More recently, these issues have been addressed with the development and use of an all- component CATCH training model, which requires at least three representatives from the same school (e.g. foodservice personnel, classroom teacher, physical education teacher) to attend CATCH training. Other team members who are encouraged to participate in the all-component CATCH training include school administrators, school nurses, counselors, students, parents, and community members. The all-component CATCH training meets a new Texas state-mandated coordinated school health requirement. Each school district must participate in training and implement a coordinated school health program consisting of health education, physical education and activity, nutrition services, and parental involvement, no later than September 1, 2007 (Legislature of the State of Texas, Section 28.002, Bill Number TX77RSB19, 2001).
The current research had several limitations. Although surveys were distributed only to schools in which school foodservice personnel had attended training sessions, some school foodservice personnel who had not attended a training session completed the questionnaire, largely due to staff turnover. There was also a relatively low response rate (40%). Another limitation was a high rate of missing responses to certain survey items, including queries that had a long list of possible responses and questions with skip patterns. Language barriers, reading literacy levels, and word choice could have influenced responses to survey items. Social desirability also could have influenced the responses to certain questions. Finally, there may have been different barriers to preparing foods lower in fat and low in sodium, which these results could not differentiate because survey questions asked about both fat and sodium simultaneously. To overcome these limitations, future research needs to be conducted to enhance survey design.
The current results, as well as results from previous studies, have indicated that increased communication with students, other school staff, and parents is needed to support effective implementation of the child nutrition services component of a coordinated school health program. In order to achieve this goal, school foodservice managers should increase their communication with classroom teachers to emphasize the importance of consistent child nutrition messages in the classroom. Increased communication with students, teachers, and parents can provide further support for initiating healthful changes in the school cafeteria (Kubik, et al., 2001). Finally, use of qualitative and participatory methods, such as in-depth qualitative interviews, facilitated group discussions, and observations, may provide researchers and practitioners with more in-depth information on factors that influence the implementation of the child nutrition services component of a coordinated school health program. These results, could, in turn, be incorporated into future school-based nutrition program trainings.
This project was funded by the Texas Department of Health Diabetes Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional support was provided from Behavioral Science Education Cancer Prevention and Control, National Cancer Institute, NIH Grant #2R25CA57712-06.
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McCullum and Hoelscher are, respectively, postdoctoral fellow and associate professor of Biological Sciences and Nutrition for the Human Nutrition Center at the University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health. Eagan is a child nutrition education specialist for the Region IV Education Service Center in Houston, TX. Ward is a research associate for the Human Nutrition Center/Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health. Kelder and Barroso are, respectively, associate professor of Epidemiology and graduate research assistant for the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Texas – Houston School of Public Health.
Purpose / Objectives
The purpose of this research is to describe the dissemination and subsequent implementation of the “Coordinated Approach to Child Health” (CATCH) Eat Smart School Nutrition Program in Texas using evaluation data from Year One of the dissemination survey. Recommendations for changes to CATCH and CATCH Eat Smart dissemination strategies, as well as solutions for frequently reported challenges, also are presented.