Published: August 2020

ID #: 74131

Journal: Journal of School Health

Authors: Asada Y, Mitric S, Chriqui JF

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Few studies examine why rural public schools have weaker policies and practices related to school nutrition environments compared to their urban counterparts. It is important to understand this disparity because federal school meal standards aim for children to access health‐promoting nutrition environments. In this study, we identify challenges and opportunities for the implementation of school meal standards in rural high schools. We interviewed 38 rural school professionals from 22 high schools across 7 states. School professionals included food service directors, principals, school nurses, and teachers. Overall, school professionals described improvements with implementation experiences and student acceptance over time. Key challenges included the negative influences of home and community food environments and limited staff size and capacity. Key opportunities involved joining co‐ops to enhance purchasing power, leveraging state technical assistance, and forming external partnerships. This study offers insights from a broad range of rural school professionals’ implementation experiences. The findings can inform governments and technical assistance agencies working with rural schools and school districts to facilitate implementation and sustainability of initiatives.

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