Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Interdisciplinary Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

Victor Hernandez-Gantes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arthur Shapiro, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Young, Ed.D.

Keywords

Local Wellness Policy, Classroom Rewards, Efficacy, Education, Child Nutrition

Abstract

This study determined attitudes of kindergarten through fifth grade teachers about school nutrition environments, their perceived influence on school nutrition environments, and self-reported classroom behaviors. Specific objectives were to: (a) identify perceived factors that influence the school nutrition environment, according to teachers surveyed; (b) examine relationships between elementary school teacher attitudes about school nutrition environments and perceived influence on the environment; (c) examine relationships between elementary school teachers’ attitudes about school nutrition environments, and self-reported classroom behaviors; (d) examine relationships between perceived influence over the school nutrition environment and self-reported classroom behaviors; and, (e) examine relationships between teachers’ demographic characteristics and attitudes and perceived influence on school nutrition environments, and self-reported classroom behaviors.

Research was conducted in a mid-size Florida school district including 501 participants from 23 elementary schools. The Teacher Survey on School Nutrition Environments instrument was developed and validated by the researcher.

Teachers identified the Food and Nutrition Services department as having the greatest impact on school nutrition environments, followed by student lunches and snacks sent from home. Responses to open-ended questions identified parents as part of the problem in developing healthy school nutrition environments. The Food and Nutrition Services department and parents were identified as having primary responsibility for encouraging healthy food choices at school, followed by administration, then teachers. Teachers did not perceive opportunities to provide input or to impact the school nutrition environment beyond their classrooms.

The greater self-efficacy the teachers possessed, the more they felt they influenced the nutrition environment, and the more likely they were to offer menu suggestions, to sit or eat with students, to discuss food-related topics, and to integrate nutrition into lessons. Similar results were noted for teachers with college coursework in nutrition and those who were more experienced teachers.

Classroom teachers should be encouraged to become involved and to recognize their role in developing and maintaining a healthy school nutrition environment. Increased communication should occur between school nutrition programs and teachers. Local wellness policy development and implementation should emphasize teachers’ influence.

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