Training Preferences of School Food Service Staff Vary by Role in the School Nutrition Program

Leia Flure, Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Whitney Ajie, Trinity Allison, Jennifer McCaffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Professional development has been identified as a critical component for school nutrition professionals (SNPs) to successfully implement school meal standards in the United States. However, training needs may vary based on different factors. This study examined (1) the topics of highest priority for SNPs; (2) preferred learning methods; (3) where and when trainings should be conducted; and (4) whether responses differ according to important factors including position type, school locale (urban vs. rural), or job experience. Participants completed surveys that included questions on demographics and preferences for learning methods and training topics (n = 492). Descriptive statistics characterized survey responses. Chi square tests assessed differences in learning method and training topic preferences by participant role, locale, and job experience; Cramer’s V assessed the strength of association for each chi square result. Qualitative responses to open-ended questions were analyzed using an inductive thematic analysis method. Nearly all training topic preferences were significantly different (p < 0.001 using Bonferroni method) when stratified by role. Significant differences were also observed for school locale and years of experience, but to a lesser degree. There was less variation in learning method preferences across staff role. Qualitative results (n = 93) identified three key themes related to training needs: role-specific trainings, innovative learning methods, and geographic access. The combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis indicate that professional development for SNPs should mostly be conducted in-person, be easily accessible, and include hands-on activities. Further, training should be tailored by job role and address situational barriers unique to the geographic area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • National School Lunch Program
  • school nutrition success
  • school feeding programs
  • nutrition
  • Nutrition
  • School nutrition success
  • School feeding programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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