The relationship between parents' behavioral intentions to encourage their lower elementary school-aged children to participate in the National School Lunch Program and their children's actual participation

Laurel Greenway Lambert

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between parents' intentions to encourage or not encourage their elementary school-age children to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and their children's actual participation. The researcher used the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to provide a guide for this study. Beliefs were elicited from parent focus group discussions and then used to develop a survey instrument which was identified as the Parent School Lunch Survey (PSLS). The PSLS was used to quantitatively measure behavioral and normative belief constructs of parents of elementary school children towards the NSLP. The PSLS also measured parents' attitude, subjective norm, and intention toward encouraging their children to participate in the NSLP. Fourteen elementary schools located in the Southeast region of the U.S. participated in the study. Each school distributed 25 surveys per grade in kindergarten through third grade. A total of 1039 parents completed the PSLS with 960 (92%) giving their approval for the researcher to obtain their children's school lunch participation records for a period of one month. Data analysis revealed a significant correlation between the behavioral beliefs construct and attitude (r = .49, p < .01) and between the normative beliefs construct and subjective norm (r = .26, p < .01). With intention, there was a significant relationship between the attitude toward the behavior and subjective norm with 39% of the variance in intention explained. Also, there was a significant correlation with intention on participation (r = .58, p < .01) with intent accounting for 35% of the variance in participation. There was no significant correlation between students' grade level or gender and parents' intentions. Also, there was no significant correlation between students' grade level or gender and participation in the NSLP. When beliefs that guide parents' intentions to influence their children's participation in the NSLP are identified, then marketing strategies using persuasive messages in support of the NSLP can be developed. Results of this study provide information which will be helpful in developing marketing strategies geared toward parents' beliefs which may increase their intentions to encourage their children to participate in the NSLP.