Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Food Technology

Committee Member

Dr. Angela M. Fraser, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. William C. Bridges

Committee Member

Dr. Shirley M. Timmons

Committee Member

Dr. Vivian Haley-Zitlin


The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has provided nutritious lunches to children since its establishment in 1946. The program has undergone several regulatory changes, but none have been more significant than the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). The aim of this study was to explore the relationships between select school foodservice operational factors and student participation in the NSLP since the implementation of the HHFKA. The objective of the study was to explore relationships between school foodservice operational factors and student participation in the NSLP by collecting, and then analyzing, operational data from 1,278 public school foodservice operations that participate in the NSLP in South Carolina. A systematic literature review was conducted to identify factors that were previously found to be associated with student participation. In June 2015, seven focus groups were conducted with school food service directors and managers (N=83 Participants) from South Carolina during the annual Summer Institute of Food Training. Data collected during the focus groups and 21 studies identified from the systematic literature review informed the development of two survey instruments. Cognitive Interviews were conducted with four school nutrition experts and three school food service directors from South Carolina to assess the content validity of the instruments. Twelve factors, competitive foods, pricing, menu, recipes, training, wellness policy, cafeteria characteristics, “smarter lunchrooms”, promotion, student interactions, parent/guardian interactions, and superintendent/principal/teacher interactions, were constructed from the final survey instruments. In April 2016, electronic and hard-copy versions of the survey instruments were administered to school food service directors and school food service managers. In June 2016, the data collection period ended, and all instrument results were compiled and formatted for each participating school. The findings showed 663 (61.4%) of the state's school food service operations completed the instruments. The 2015-2016 participation rate for all responding SFSOs was 67.5%. Linear Regression Models indicated that the competitive foods (+0.0204), training (-0.0076, -0.0185), wellness policy (+0.0160, -0.0404, +0.0343), student interactions (-0.0109), parent/guardian interactions (-0.0254), superintendent, principal, and teacher interactions (-0.0529), price (+0.0668), recipe (-0.0323), and promotion (-0.0166) factors were still associated with participation after the implementation of the new meal pattern. The menu, cafeteria characteristics, and “smarter lunchrooms” factors were not associated with participation.



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