Assessment Tools for School Food Programs and Environments

Healthy Food Choices in Schools December 23, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

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Assessment is the first step in identifying opportunities for improvement and starting a planning process for making schools even healthier. This page provides a summary of 5 different assessment tools that school food service professionals, school administrators, and program leaders can use to identify which tool best fits a school or district’s needs.

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School Health Index (SHI): Self-Assessment & Planning Guide 2014

The SHI was created in 2014 by the CDC in partnership with school administrators, staff, heath experts, parents and national health and education agencies. It is a completely confidential online self-assessment tool for those seeing to improve school health and safety policies and programs. It is designed to help schools identify areas for improvement and develop a plan for implementing low-cost or no-cost plan healthy changes.

The SHI assesses 8 key aspects of the school health environment:

  1. School Health and Safety Policies and Environment
  2. Health Education
  3. Physical Education and Other Physical Activity Programs
  4. Nutrition Services
  5. School Health Services
  6. School Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
  7. Health Promotion for Staff
  8. Family and Community Involvement

SHI assessment materials are free. According the the CDC website, some schools have received small seed grants for holding SHI team meetings. Implementation of many of the changes identified by this assessment can be done at no cost or schools can use the results of SHI to apply for funding. Assessment can take as little as 6 hours.

For more information about SHI read this introduction. The online assessment can be completed:

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Smarter Lunchrooms Self-Assessment Scorecard App: LunchScore

The Smarter Lunchrooms Program, a program of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs offers a free 100 point self-assessment scorecard for those seeking to improve the school meal environment. The tool can be used by food service directors and staff, researchers, state agencies, district managers, nutrition educators, students and even parents to identify areas in which the school meal environment excels and areas that can be improved. The scorecard is available in PDF form but is more easily completed by using the web or mobile app version which allow for aggregation of the scores of multiple lunchrooms that can include image documentation. 

The self-assessment focuses on the following areas:

  • Focusing on the Fruit
  • Promoting Vegetables & Salad
  • Moving More White Milk
  • Entrée of the Day
  • Increasing Sales of Reimbursable Meals
  • Creating School Synergies:
    • Signage, Priming & Communication
    • Lunchroom Atmosphere
    • Student Involvement
    • Recognition & Support of School Food Service
    • A la Carte

The scorecard and app are free and the changes identified by using the scorecard are all low-cost or no-cost and most can be implemented in just minutes.  

To complete to scorecard online visit: https://scorecard.smarterlunchrooms.org/ and register for a free account. You can also download the app to use on your phone at the Apple AppStore or Google Play. You can also download a PDF version of the scorecard here.

For step by step instructions see this recorded webinar by the BEN Center manager that walks you through setting up an account and using the scorecard.

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Assessing School Breakfast Potential

USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides guidelines and step by step instruction for assessing school breakfast potential on their website. The purpose of the page is to help schools to analyze current breakfast programs, and identify potentials for improvement.

The 6 key steps in the assessment are:

  • Step 1: Create a School Breakfast Expansion Team
  • Step 2: Assess Your Current Breakfast Program
  • Step 3: Develop and Action Plan
  • Step 4: Put the Plan Into Action
  • Step 5: Evaluate Your Plan
  • Step 6: Share Your Success Story

The page includes links to delve deeper into areas of the assessment including assessing barriers and strengths, calculating and managing costs, finding grants, and measuring successes.  

To get started with this free assessment visit: Assessing School Breakfast Potential

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Cornell Healthy After-School Environment Self-Assessment (CHASE)

The CHASE Self-Assessment tool was created by Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences to help after-school staff examine their support of healthy eating and activity and identify way to improve support.

The tool is divided into 7 key question sections:

  1. What can children choose to drink?
  2. How can children choose to be physically active?
  3. How are children encouraged to eat more vegetables and fruits?
  4. What healthy snacks can children choose?
  5. Are children encouraged to be in control of their own eating choices?
  6. Are children encouraged to limit screen time?
  7. Does staff promote healthy food and activity choices?

These sections also identify healthy eating and activity goals that can lead to afterschool environment improvement.

The CHASE Assessment tool is free online and can be completed by Afterschool Directors in just minutes.

Learn more about the assessment tool here and download the tool here.

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Community Organization Beverage Assessment Survey

The Growing Healthy Kids Columbus (GHKC) program, a childhood obesity prevention coalition created by Ohio State University Extension, focused on promoting the “Water First for Thirst” message in 2013-14. Coalition members were asked to complete a survey at the start of both 2014 and 2015 on the beverage-related policies and practices in place at their organizations. The survey can be adapted and used to assess beverage accessibility and policy in both in-school and out-of-school environments. The assessment results can help program leaders identify areas for improvement including:

  • Increasing availability of drinking water
  • Decreasing availability of sugary beverages
  • Educating staff about beverage choices
  • Promoting water and healthy beverages to students
  • Developing a beverage policy for celebrations and events
  • Increasing beverage consumption awareness

Download the Ohio State Beverage Assessment Survey here. Read more about GHKC in this poster presentation and this published paper.


Is there an assessment tool missing from this list? Please contact healthy_food_choices_in_schools@cornell.edu and let us know!


Contributor

Katie Baildon, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.