New study describes leadership characteristics of school nutrition professionals that can best support successful implementation of nutrition interventions

Nov 1, 2021

School meals are the healthiest lunch option for most students, and national efforts are underway to support improved school meal participation and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables offered in school meals. Given the limited financial resources and large organizational structures in which school nutritional professionals are tasked to implement these nutrition interventions, it is critical to ensure appropriate support of school nutrition leaders. Researchers at the University of California and California State University, Chico published a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior describing four key school nutrition leadership characteristics for successful implementation of nutrition interventions. Characteristics included the leaders' understanding of the technical and operational details of the intervention, ability to proactively develop and communicate intervention plans, ability to provide supervisory oversight over implementation staff and contractors, and understanding that how they message the intervention to staff can influence staff acceptance and support of the intervention. These findings were captured in 14 in-depth interviews with school district leaders and staff from a large, urban California school district that was implementing a three-year project aimed to increase school lunch participation and reduce plate waste by middle- and high-school students. Study authors include Stephanie Machado from CSU Chico, Lorrene Ritchie from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, and Amanda Brewster, Valerie Shapiro, Kiran Magee, and Kristine Madsen from UC Berkeley. This study was supported by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist