On September 4, 2019, the Food and Nutrition Service awarded approximately $2.8 million in federal funding for the Fiscal Year 2019 Team Nutrition Training Grants for Innovative State Training Programs. These 3-year grants support state agencies in expanding the reach of existing state-developed training programs focused on improving school meal quality. Ultimately, these grants will also help identify innovative school meal training programs, so that other states may use them as a model or guide for implementing similar training programs.
Recipients of the Fiscal Year 2019 Team Nutrition Training Grants for Innovative State Training Programs:
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will deliver their Culturally Relevant and Inspiring School Professionals culinary training to 400 school nutrition professionals at 39 schools (providing a total of 3,200 hours of training). Through these innovative trainings, school nutrition professionals will learn skills to prepare customizable entrées for school lunch. With the support of a chef onsite, school nutrition professionals will then market, prepare, and serve this entrée live during a meal service at their school. This “Live-Setting” training approach will allow school nutrition professionals to produce a reimbursable meal during the lunch period, while simultaneously practicing new skills. Using a parallel study evaluation design, Massachusetts will randomize schools into one of three groups to assess the efficacy and impact of the training components. Massachusetts will assess meal quality and acceptability using digital imagery and student surveys. They will also evaluate school meals using the Healthy Eating Index.
Montana Office of Public Instruction
The Montana Office of Public Instruction will expand its piloted Montana Cook Fresh Institute to reach 20 underserved School Food Authorities (SFAs). Four of the 20 SFAs represent American Indian tribes and are located on or near Native American reservations. About 40 school nutrition directors and managers will take part in the 30-hour culinary training that includes a self-assessment and development of an action plan to improve school meal quality. Each school nutrition director/manager will receive peer mentoring and technical assistance from trainers and chefs as they implement strategies to reach their meal quality goals. In addition, Montana will provide 15 regional culinary trainings and two webinar series for school nutrition staff. These supplemental trainings will focus on procuring local foods and successful strategies to improve student and parent perceptions of school meal quality. The grant’s evaluation plan includes the randomization of the 20 SFAs into two cohorts for a pre-post, delayed-start design. Montana will assess grant outcomes through culinary training evaluations, meal quality action plan implementation, a School Meal Quality Assessment Tool, and student focus groups.
Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Education will expand their piloted culinary training program and Project PA Mentoring Program to train 150 school food service directors. They will hold six culinary training sessions, where each school nutrition director will receive 16 hours of training (2,400 hours of culinary training will be provided in total). Following the training, seven Project PA Mentors will provide guidance, support, and recommendations to the school food service directors as they implement strategies to improve the quality of school meals. Pennsylvania will provide sub-grants to 20 schools to extend the culinary lessons to school nutrition staff. In addition, each sub-grantee will conduct a student taste-test activity using a recipe from the culinary training and/or incorporate a new cooking technique from the culinary training into the school meal preparation. The grant’s mixed-methods evaluation will include online surveys of school nutrition directors, and structured, in-depth interviews with sub-grantee school nutrition professionals and Project PA Mentors. Student surveys, in a sample of sub-grantee schools, will assess students’ perceptions of the changes in school meal quality. An assessment of menus in sub-grantee schools will examine changes in school meal offerings following the training and mentoring.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will expand their Goal Oriented Achievement Learning Skills (GOALS) training certification program to reach at least 180 school nutrition professionals in 60 rural and underserved SFAs. Wisconsin will hold 18 regional trainings to implement a two-day Quality Meal Improvement course, where each school foodservice director, manager, and frontline staff will receive 16 hours of training (providing a total of 2,880 hours of training). As a follow-up to the training, participants will complete a meal quality self-assessment and develop an action plan to improve meal quality. Wisconsin will award sub-grants to support the implementation of strategies designed to improve meal quality. The grant’s evaluation plan includes staff training assessments, student satisfaction surveys, and assessments of school meal participation rates and production records.