SNEB Journal Club 5: Teacher Perceptions of Multilevel Policies and the Influence on Nutrition Education in Preschools

(Recorded 10/30/17)

Speakers: Virginia C. Stage, PhD, RD, LDN and Amanda D. Peterson, MS, RDN, LDN, East Carolina University 

Teacher Perceptions of Multilevel Policies and the Influence on Nutrition Education in North Carolina Head Start Preschools 

Interrelated themes were condensed into three broad categories, and a substantive-level model emerged to explain how policy-related factors (i.e. actual policies vs. policy perceptions) influenced nutrition education (e.g. frequency, strategies) and child-related outcomes (i.e. learning outcomes, exposure). Multilevel policies and teachers’ perceptions of those policies directly and indirectly affect the quality and frequency of nutrition education. For instance, teachers described sanitation policies that limited or restricted the use of food-based activities (e.g. taste testing, cooking), while policies regarding hygiene (e.g. hand washing) and regulatory schedules created time constraints in the classroom. Findings suggest that teachers’ perceive their ability to provide quality nutrition education in the classroom is most affected by policies at the state and center-level. 

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Review past and current federal food and nutrition related policies (i.e. Child Adult Care Food Program, Head Start Performance Standards) and their potential impact on nutrition education in the preschool setting. 
  2. Discuss methods and results of a qualitative examination of teacher perceptions of multi-level policies in NC-based Head Start preschools. 
  3. Describe action areas nutrition educators can take to improve food and nutrition related policy in the Head Start environment. 

Virginia C. Stage is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Assistance Professor of Nutrition Science, and Director the The FEEd Lab at East Carolina University. The Food-based Early Education (FEEd) Lab's research focuses on childhood overweight prevention by improving early childhood teachers' food and nutrition education strategies when working with children (birth-5 years) and their families. Over the past 10+ years, Dr. Stage has worked with 300+ teachers nationally on how to integrate nutrition education into their classrooms. Finally, Dr. Stage also currently serves as Chair-Elect of SNEB’s Children’s Nutrition Education Division.

Amanda Peterson is a Registered Dietitian and Research Associate at East Carolina University.  She graduated from East Carolina University with a Master's in nutrition and works as a Process Improvement Coordinator and Outpatient Dietitian at Vidant Duplin Hospital.  Amanda’s research focus is food and nutrition education policies in Head Start preschools with an interest in how policies influence the preschool environment.