Variables Affecting High School Students' Perceptions of School Foodservice

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Nutrition and Food Systems


Objective To determine if student satisfaction with high school foodservice is directly related to participation in the foodservice. Design A valid and reliable survey was conducted in a variety of classes such as English, history, and health science in grades 9 through 12, representing students aged 13 through 19 years. Students were asked 38 questions concerning variety of food, food quality, foodservice staff, aesthetics of the serving and dining area, and demographics. Subjects/setting The study was conducted with 1,823 students from 9 schools representing 4 geographic regions. Statistical analysis Stepwise multiple regression was used to determine the independent variables (attributes desired by the students) that most highly correlated with the dependent variable (satisfaction with the school foodservice overall). Results Variables most highly correlated with overall satisfaction were variety of food offered, flavor of food, attractiveness of food on the serving line, staff smiling and greeting students, quality of food choices, choices that allow students to meet cultural and ethnic preferences, courteousness of the staff, and quality of ingredients. Variety of food offered was the best predictor of satisfaction A statistically significant difference was found (P<.01) between groups that never ate school lunch and those that ate school lunch 3 to 5 times per week an dining ambiance, food quality, and staff. The results indicate that satisfaction with foodservice is associated with purchase behavior in school foodservice programs. Applications School foodservice and nutrition programs are critically important for providing nutrition to millions of our future leaders. Today it is not enough to prepare healthful, good-tasting food. High school students are sophisticated and are exposed at an early age to a variety of dining experiences including fast foods, ethnic cuisine, and fine dining. These factors have influenced the attributes students use to evaluate school foodservice. To maintain participation levels and financial stability, school foodservice professionals should evaluate student satisfaction with food quality, variety, and other variables that affect overall satisfaction and participation. These data may then be incorporated into continuous quality improvement and strategic planning. Marketing must be incorporated into the strategic plan to influence student participation.

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Journal of the American Dietetic Association





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