Date of Completion

8-24-2012

Embargo Period

8-22-2012

Open Access

Campus Access

Abstract

Background: Mandatory school wellness policies, written under federal laws, exist to improve school nutrition and physical activity. However, many school districts, especially those financially disadvantaged, have not been able to implement policies due to resource and organizational barriers. Schools benefit by connecting with external facilitators such as local universities, community health organizations, and national and/or state funding agencies in order to carry out policies that strengthen school wellness practices. Objective: To facilitate wellness project development and implementation in three Connecticut districts with Title 1 schools with concurrent programming at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Design: A quasi-experimental evaluation of school wellness program implementation using qualitative and quantitative process and outcome indicators. Participants: Fifteen high-need schools within Meriden, Norwich, and Windham Public School Districts. Procedure: Three school wellness programs were layered into each district to target all school-aged groups (elementary, middle and high). Key players were identified at the district and school level. The Project Coordinator worked with the districts to develop action plans, provided guidance and school wellness resources, and helped foster connections with local and national partners. University of Connecticut (UCONN) undergraduates provided sound nutrition education. Data was collected through informal verbalizations and observations, formal exit interviews with key players, taste test surveys provided to students at cafeteria-wide and classroom events, and pre and post school wellness environment surveys. Results: Approximately 6,500 K-12 students were reached through direct wellness programming strategies. A total of 190 UCONN technical assistance hours were dedicated to Layering Project districts. District action plans incorporated goals to increase awareness of sound nutrition, gradually transition to new meal patterns, and encourage 60 minutes per day of physical activity. Key players informally reported that undergraduate UCONN students enhanced the subject of wellness and were identified as mentors to increase target audience enthusiasm and motivation to try healthy products at taste tests. During exit interviews, key players reported that the Layering Project created new school physical activity and nutrition opportunities and strengthened those already in existence. District students were recognized as the most impacted stakeholders and the Project Coordinator was the most valuable resource for wellness implementation. Taste tests incorporated more direct nutrition education and provided a gateway for introducing future menu items to students. School Wellness Environment Surveys demonstrated that parent involvement was minimal; however, community involvement grew throughout project implementation. Conclusion: In this pilot project, successful wellness project implementation was related to key player enthusiasm and dedication, district and school-level administrative support, and community involvement. It is important for districts to maintain connections with national funding agencies and community partners to sustain wellness practices that support federal policies.

FINAL THESIS KristenChasse.2.pdf (111 kB)
Appendices A and B

FINAL THESIS KristenChasse.3.pdf (126 kB)
Appendices C and D

FINAL THESIS KristenChasse.4.pdf (60 kB)
Continuation of Appendix D

FINAL THESIS KristenChasse.5.pdf (1878 kB)
Appendices E, F, and G

FINAL THESIS KristenChasse.6.pdf (373 kB)
Appendices H, I, and J

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