Assessing Food Safety Behavior: Salient Beliefs of School Nutrition Employees

Michelle Alcorn, Kevin Roberts, Kevin Sauer, Paola Paez, Tracee Watkins Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 305-316, Jul 2019 Volume 39, Issue 4: Pages 305–316

Thirty million children are served daily through the National School Lunch Program, and even more students consume a breakfast or snack prepared by employees in school nutrition programs. It is therefore imperative that employees prepare and serve food safely. To motivate these behaviors, intervention strategies must target employee beliefs about food safety practices. The purpose of this elicitation study was to determine significant variables that can influence behavioral intention by using the Theory of Planned Behavior to investigate child nutrition program employees’ salient beliefs regarding proper handwashing, handling of food and work surfaces, and use of thermometers in food preparation and service. Through purposive sampling, 43 school nutrition employees were recruited to participate in four focus groups in three Midwestern states. Employees identified salient beliefs that affect behavior. Three researchers analyzed the transcripts independently to identify themes. Further analysis was conducted, using qualitative data analysis software (NVivo 11).

Employees’ behavioral beliefs were related to maintaining health through safe handling of food. Employees felt social pressure from other employees, parents, and students to perform or not perform the behavior. Reported barriers to following the practices were related to the need for more time and adequate access to resources, equipment, and facilities.

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