Challenges to Implementing Food Safety and Produce Handling Training in School Meal Programs

Sandra C. Curwood, Susan W. Arendt, Lakshman Rajagopal, Stephen W. Sapp


This study explored school foodservice directors’ (FSDs’) attitudes, influencers, knowledge about safe produce handling, and perceived challenges related to food safety training using Ajzen’s (1985) theory of planned behavior (TPB) as a theoretical underpinning. A web-based questionnaire was developed, pilot tested, and sent to all 864 public school districts in California. Demographic data, knowledge scores, attitudes, influencers, and challenges are reported using descriptive statistics and t-tests. Most respondent school FSDs (n=136, response rate of 16.4%) were female, between the ages of 35-64, with a least a bachelors’ degree, and more than 10 years of school foodservice experience. Most districts were self-operated, small, at least 50% free and reduced eligibility, and had conventional kitchens with speed-scratch preparation. School FSDs’ attitude towards offering food safety training had the highest level of agreement regarding maintaining department reputation. The health inspector was identified as having the greatest likelihood to think food safety training should be offered. The noted perceived challenge to providing food safety training was “employee scheduling availability.” Findings identified 84.4% (n= 108) of respondents had a Certified Food Safety Protection (CFPM) certification and12.6% (n= 16) attended USDA’s Produce Safety University (PSU) with no significant differences in knowledge scores based on either having attended USDA’s PSU or having CFPM certification. Regarding knowledge questions, 24.4% answered all six correctly (n= 125-127). School foodservice staff need adequate food safety training and safe produce handling practices as part of their food safety management plan. Produce safety training can be supported by state agencies and professional organizations. 

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Copyright (c) 2017 Sandra C. Curwood, Susan W. Arendt, Lakshman Rajagopal, Stephen W. Sapp

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Journal of Food Studies (ISSN 2166-1073)

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