Investigating barriers and keys to success when implementing and maintaining farm to school programs: Perspectives of hourly school foodservice employees
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School foodservice operations make up a large portion of the non-commercial foodservice industry. The number of Farm to school (FTS) programs has increased considerably within the school foodservice industry and provide opportunities to source ingredients locally. Due to the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, school foodservice employees are faced with the challenge of providing increased amounts of produce to students. FTS programs are being used to help meet this challenge. This study focused on identifying barriers and keys to success when using local produce from FTS programs as well as identifying and assessing differences between barriers and keys to success based on geographic location, and school lunch participation rates.
Interviews and a questionnaire were used to identify barriers and keys to success. Barriers identified through interviews included appearance, shelf life, service to students, and availability. Keys to success included exposure and support, service, and employee motivation. In the questionnaire, a five point Likert-type scale (1= strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree) was used to assess participants' agreement to statements about barriers and keys to success. The barrier items with the highest mean scores were "local produce has a different appearance than non-local produce" (M= 3.67), "the quality of local produce is better than non-local produce" (M=3.61), and "local produce is less available than non-local produce (M= 3.34)". Keys to success with the highest mean scores included "staff encouraging students to try local produce" (M= 4.15), "exposing students to local produce consistently" (M= 4.08), and "presenting local produce attractively to students" (M= 4.08).
Mean scores of agreement toward barriers and keys to success were compared to identify differences between barriers and keys to success based on geographic location and school lunch participation rates. Significant differences based on geographic location and school lunch participation rates were identified at the p<.05 level. There were no significant differences identified between keys to success based on school lunch participation rates. It is important for directors to understand the specific barriers and keys to success when implementing and maintaining FTS programs. Results from this study provide information that directors can use to help hourly employees overcome barriers through training and implementation of keys to success.