Student satisfaction, participation, and district change management activities associated with the implementation of a new menu system in Mississippi high schools

Janet Ball Levins


The School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children regulations were implemented in the National School Lunch Program in July of 1998. These regulations not only required that menus meet the traditional one-third of the RDAs for certain nutrients, but they now required that school lunches contain no more than 30% fat, less than 10% saturated fat; were lower in sodium; and increased in fiber. The Office of Child Nutrition of the Mississippi State Department of Education and The University of Southern Mississippi obtained a Team Nutrition grant to implement these regulations with a new menu system consisting of a three week cycle menu and a customizing chart for substitutions. This system was known as Mississippi Cycles (MsC ). The grant also included training of the Child Nutrition Program (CNP) directors and suggestions for change management strategies for implementation. The researcher evaluated student satisfaction, student participation, and change management activities associated with the implementation of the MsC menu system. She compared results of high school student food service satisfaction surveys completed before the implementation, in the Spring of 1998, with those completed after the implementation, in the Spring of 1999. She also compared student participation rates in the school lunch program in the same high schools in 1998 with those in 1999. Change management activities were described and related to student food service satisfaction, student participation, opinions of CNP directors and food service managers, and with CNP directors' job performance as measured by compliance with the menu system. The researcher found that there were no significant changes in student satisfaction or student participation rates after the introduction of the new menu system. The researcher found a significant relationship of change management activities with overall food service satisfaction and satisfaction with the food quality factor. She also found that overall, the CNP directors and managers had a positive attitude toward the menu system but this was not significantly related to the use of change management activities. Previous research showed that student participation rates were lower with menus low in fat. Because of the lack of a significant decrease in student food service satisfaction and student participation rates, this new menu system has been considered successful in implementing lower fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and higher fiber menus.