Relationships among organizational structure, student satisfaction, financial stability, and nutrition integrity in self-operated and contract-managed Child Nutrition Programs

Judy Marie Guidry Stracener


The purpose of this research was to determine if there was a relationship between the organizational structure of Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs) self-operated and those contract-managed and the outcomes of nutrition integrity, financial stability, and student satisfaction. The research sample was from the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regions and consisted of two groups: group I, school food authorities managed by contract food service management companies ( n = 52) and group II, self-operated school food authorities (n = 71). A total response rate of 61% (N = 75) was obtained with a usable response rate of 55% (N = 68). The researcher examined data from the following three instruments completed by each district participating: (1) a school food service program key areas questionnaire; (2) a high school student satisfaction questionnaire administered to approximately fifty 11 th -grade students attending a high school of choice; and (3) one week of high school lunch menus (no recipes). The researcher found no significant difference in nutrition integrity between programs self-operated and those contract-managed. No significant difference was identified in the student satisfaction variables for overall satisfaction, food quality, diversity, staff, ambiance, and time/cost. There was no significant difference in the financial stability variables of financial position, net revenue, and percent average daily lunch participation. The researcher found a significant difference between the two groups only in two criteria. These areas included one indicator of the student satisfaction instrument--the students' perception of nutrition information available and one indicator of financial stability--percent a la carte sales. Both criteria were significant in contract-managed programs. Findings indicate that self-operated and contract-managed CNPs were essentially the same in the outcomes of nutrition integrity of menus, financial stability of the operation, and student satisfaction with the CNP even though differences were found in their organizational structure. Despite the fact that contract-managed programs were found to have a significantly higher amount of a la carte sales and a higher student perception of nutrition information availability, there were still no overall significant differences found in the three outcomes measured.