School Foodservice Directors' Attitudes
and Perceived Challenges to Implementing
Food Safety and HACCP Programs
Food safety is an important part of providing school children
with acceptable, safe, and nutritious meals. There is evidence that improvements
are needed in the area of food safety in schools, and that few schools have implemented
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. The purposes of this
study were to determine the attitudes of school foodservice directors toward food
safety and the use of HACCP programs in school foodservice and to identify the
challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP programs.
A focus group was conducted to generate a list of challenges
to implementing food safety and HACCP programs. As a result, a three-part written
questionnaire was developed. For Part 1, school foodservice directors' attitudes
toward food safety and HACCP programs were determined. For Part 2, the challenges
to implementing food safety and HACCP were investigated. For Part 3, demographic
information about directors and their districts was collected. Questionnaires
were mailed to a randomly selected national sample of 800 district school foodservice
directors. A total of 461 questionnaires were returned for a response rate of
Factor analysis was conducted on 11 attitude and 19 challenge
statements to determine any underlying factors. The significant factors that
emerged for the attitude scale were HACCP disadvantages, certification advantages,
and certification disadvantages. Three significant factors emerged for the challenges
scale: resource management, employee motivation, and employee confidence. Multiple
regression analysis was used to determine relationships among variables.
The school foodservice directors responding to the questionnaire
either did not perceive the challenges identified by the focus group as problematic
in their district, or they were unsure if these challenges impacted their district.
In general, the directors had a positive attitude about food safety and the
use of HACCP programs in their districts. However, the majority (70%) of directors
did not have a HACCP program in place, and many were unsure of what HACCP was
or how to apply it in their operations. In response to an open-ended question
about how food safety could be improved in their district, 29% of the directors
indicated that they needed more time and 22% indicated that more money was needed
for training. Other areas mentioned included improved employee attitudes and
incentives, facilities/equipment modifications, increased staffing, and more
It is apparent that school foodservice directors need assistance
in developing and implementing HACCP programs. Mentoring of younger school foodservice
directors and providing HACCP resource materials would support HACCP implementation.
The goal of the school foodservice program is to serve meals that
are acceptable, safe, and nutritious (Neill, 1980). Food safety certification
of employees and implementation of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point
(HACCP) program are two ways to achieve these goals. Hwang, Almanza, and Nelson
(2001) found that only 14% of Indiana school corporations had implemented HACCP
programs and that 37% had no employees certified in food safety. The limited
use of HACCP programs and the number of schools having no employees certified
in food safety indicate that school foodservice directors may face challenges
when implementing these programs.
The food safety certification process was initiated to establish
minimum standards of food safety practices and provides information necessary
to train employees in food safety and implement a food safety system (American
Food Safety Institute, 2000). Several factors appear to limit the extent to
which employees are certified.
Speer and Kane (1990) conducted research with state food
protection directors in 50 states. They found that challenges to certifying
employees were time, limited funds, and the perceived burden of certification.
The rural nature of some states also presented a challenge to the certification
process. Further, these directors stated that managers did not appear to be
motivated to put food safety practices into effect, and believed that certification
would not change these practices. However, a study by Penninger and Rodman (1984)
found that certification of managers improved food safety practices in 20 foodservice
The success of a HACCP program also depends on the education
and training of employees on the importance of their role in maintaining food
safety. An understanding of HACCP and the related prerequisite programs, as
well as a commitment from management, must be established to make HACCP successful
(King, 1992). In their study of school foodservice in Indiana, Hwang et al.
(2001) found that HACCP programs were more likely to be implemented in larger
schools where the manager had food safety certification and sanitation-training
programs were in place. They found that time, labor costs, and training funds
were obstacles to implementing HACCP programs.
The attitude of foodservice employees toward food safety is critical
to a successful food safety program. According to Howes, McEwen, Griffith, and
Harris (1996), attitudes, knowledge, and monitoring are important factors for
decreasing foodborne illness outbreaks.
Cochran-Yantis et al. (1996) studied the attitudes and knowledge
of 300 restaurant operators that had favorable and unfavorable records of health
inspections. They found that managers in restaurants with favorable health code
records had a higher level of knowledge and a more positive attitude toward
food safety than did managers in restaurants with unfavorable records.
Research shows that foodservice managers view food safety
as important, yet they perceive a need for additional education in that area.
Holdt (1992) found that, overall, managers of university foodservice operations
rated food safety as an important job function and believed that learning more
about food safety was worthwhile. Those managers with 11 or more years of foodservice
experience demonstrated a more positive attitude toward food safety, compared
to managers with less experience. Sneed and White (1993) found that school foodservice
managers and directors/supervisors rated health and safety laws, inspection,
and enforcement as high continuing education needs. Perceived needs for continuing
education were positively correlated with education levels, as well as with
years of "general" foodservice experience and "school" foodservice
While it appears that school foodservice managers believe that
food safety is important, there is evidence that improvements in food safety
are needed and that HACCP is an area of confusion to many foodservice employees.
Further, there are a limited number of current studies related to food safety
and HACCP in school foodservice. The purposes of this study were to determine
the attitudes of school foodservice directors toward food safety and the use
of HACCP programs in school foodservice, and to identify the challenges to implementing
food safety and HACCP programs.
Focus group. Twelve school
foodservice directors in Silicon Valley, CA, who also were members of the Northern
California School Food Service Association, were invited to attend a focus group.
The purpose of this group was to develop a list of school foodservice directors'
perceived challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP procedures in school
kitchens. A set of questions was developed to guide the focus group discussion
(Krueger, 1994; Krueger, 1998). During the two-hour session, participants identified
challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP procedures. Ideas were recorded
on note pads and the session was tape recorded and transcribed.
To ensure completeness and accuracy of the list of challenges,
the list was mailed to a random sample of 15 school foodservice directors for
review. This sub-sample was obtained from Market Data Retrieval's list of district
school foodservice directors. Market Data Retrieval is a company that maintains
national databases used for marketing purposes. Changes were made to the challenges
based on feedback from these directors. This list was used to develop the challenges
section of the written questionnaire.
Written questionnaire. A three-part
written questionnaire was developed following the focus group. Section 1 of
the questionnaire investigated school foodservice directors' attitudes toward
food safety certification and HACCP programs. School foodservice directors were
asked to indicate their level of agreement to the statements using a five-point
rating scale (1=strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree).
Section 2 of the questionnaire investigated the challenges to
implementing food safety and HACCP programs in school kitchens as perceived
by school foodservice directors. This section included the list of challenges
generated by the focus group. A five-point rating scale (1=never a problem to
5=always a problem) was used for respondents to rate the level of impact of
Section 3 of the questionnaire gathered demographic data
about the school district and the school foodservice director. These data provided
a description of the sample and were used to test relationships of demographic
variables with attitudes and challenges variables.
The questionnaire was pilot-tested by 10 school foodservice directors.
The random sample was chosen from school foodservice directors who were members
of the Northern California School Food Service Association. The questionnaire
and a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study were mailed to the school
foodservice directors. The questionnaire was evaluated for clarity, appropriateness
of content, ease of completion, and questionnaire length. Feedback from the
pilot test was used to make revisions to the questionnaire. The research protocol
and questionnaire were reviewed by the Institution Review Board for the Protection
of Human Subjects at Oregon State University and was approved prior to data
Study sample. A national random sample
of district school foodservice directors was selected for the study. School
foodservice directors who participated in the pilot test were not included in
the study. The sample again was purchased from Market Data Retrieval. The total
database for district school foodservice directors was 7,012. Eight hundred
school foodservice directors were selected for the sample using simple random
sampling. The sample size was calculated based on recommendations of Dillman
(2000). He indicates that a population size of 6,000 and 8,000 requires 361
and 367 responses, respectively, for a±5% sampling error. The researchers
estimate that the response rate will be about 45%; thus, a sample size of 800
would be appropriate.
The following four-step procedure outlined for mail
surveys by Dillman (2000) was used for the research:
- An advance-notice letter was mailed to the study sample.
- After one week, a cover letter, questionnaire, and business
reply envelope were mailed. Each questionnaire had a three-digit code for
follow-up purposes, and confidentiality was assured in the cover letter.
- After one week, a follow-up postcard was mailed.
- Three weeks after the second mailing, another cover
letter, questionnaire, and business reply envelope were mailed.
Data were analyzed using SPSS ver. 9. Frequencies,
percentages, means, and standard deviations were calculated for all items on
the attitudes and challenges to food safety and HACCP implementation scales.
For demographic data, frequency of responses and percentages were calculated.
A principal axis factor analysis with varimax orthogonal rotation was performed
to determine dimensionality of items on the attitudes and challenges scales.
Upon completion of the factor analysis, a Cronbach's alpha was calculated to
estimate internal consistency for each factor identified for both scales. Multiple
linear regression using the forward stepwise technique was used to determine
relationships among attitudes, challenges, and demographic variables. A probability
of equal or less than 0.05 was used for all tests of significance.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The focus group was held on a weekday morning and lasted
approximately two hours. Five school foodservice directors attended. The mean
school district size was 17,420 students. The school foodservice directors were
employed in the foodservice industry for a mean of 18 years. The mean length of
time the directors were employed in school foodservice was 14 years. The mean
length of time the directors were employed in their current position was nine
The directors identified challenges to implementing food safety
and HACCP procedures in school foodservice. Employee buy-in, employee motivation,
training and education of employees, and employees' comfort level with food
safety were regarded as essential to implementing successful food safety and
HACCP programs. Further, the ability of school foodservice directors to find
time to address food safety issues also was considered important.
Demographic Profile of the Survey Sample
A total of 461 of the 800 questionnaires mailed were
returned, for a response rate of 58%. The majority (72%) of the school foodservice
directors were between 36 and 55 years of age, and 83% were females. The majority
(53%) of the school foodservice directors had some college education or a bachelor's
degree. Approximately two-thirds (68%) of the directors had been employed 16
or more years in some segment of the foodservice industry, while 57% of the
directors had 15 or fewer years of direct school foodservice experience.
More than one-half (59%) of the school foodservice directors
responding were employed in school districts ranging in size from 1,001-5,000
students, and 82% of these districts used onsite foodservice production systems.
The majority of school foodservice directors (70%) did not have a HACCP program
established. The remaining foodservice directors either had developed or were
in the process of developing a HACCP program in their school district.
Seventy-one percent of the school foodservice directors responding
had earned some kind of food safety certification. This is higher than the 55%
of Indiana school foodservice directors/managers who were food-safety certified
(Hwang et al., 2001). This could be due to the fact that this study was conducted
about two years later, and there has been an increased emphasis on food safety
over that time. Half of these school foodservice directors (50%) obtained their
food safety certification through the National Restaurant Association Educational
Foundation's ServSafe(r) course.
Attitudes of school foodservice directors
related to food safety and HACCP implementation. Responses from the school
foodservice directors to the attitude statements are represented in
Table 1. The school foodservice directors were in positive agreement
with the statements regarding the benefits of certification. They also were
in positive agreement about the benefits of continuing education in food safety
for themselves and their employees. However, they were neutral on the statement
regarding the time and money required to certify employees. Thus, time and money
for food safety certification may not be major challenges in school foodservice.
These results are consistent with the findings of Sneed and White
(1993) and Holdt (1992), whose studies found that directors/supervisors and
managers rated continuing education in food safety as important. While Speer
and Kane (1990) found that barriers to certification included time and money,
they did not appear to be barriers for these respondents.
The directors' responses also varied regarding the use of HACCP
programs. Again, the directors were in positive agreement with the statements
regarding the benefits of HACCP. Statements addressing the time and money required
to implement a HACCP program received neutral scores; thus, these factors do
not appear to pose a major problem in HACCP implementation in school foodservice
operations. This may be an inappropriate conclusion; however, as 70% of the
directors have not implemented HACCP, they may have no idea about the time and
cost requirements. Further, many of the directors commented that they were unfamiliar
with HACCP. Some directors reported that they would like to implement a HACCP
program, but need additional resources to do so. These results are consistent
with the analysis of King (1992), who stated that many foodservice operators
are unfamiliar with HACCP or unclear about how to apply HACCP programs in their
A principal axis factor analysis with varimax orthogonal rotation
was performed on the items in the attitude scale. The five factors identified
were: Factor 1=food safety education (α=0.80); Factor 2=HACCP disadvantages
(α=0.90); Factor 3=certification advantages α=0.79); Factor 4=HACCP
advantages (α=0.78); and Factor 5=certification disadvantages (α=0.65).
Multiple linear regression was performed with each of the
factors on the attitude scale as a dependent variable. The independent variables
- district size;
- education level;
- years employed in foodservice;
- years employed in school foodservice; and
- food safety certification.
The model was significant (p<0.05) for Factors 2, 3, and 5.
Food safety certification was significant for all three factors, and age was
a significant for Factor 3 (Table 2). The independent
variables accounted for a moderate amount of the variance (R²) in the three
factors: Factor 2=0.21; Factor 3=0.31; and Factor 5=0.26.
The analysis for the attitude scale revealed that when school
foodservice directors were certified, they did not view time and money as being
disadvantages to employee certification and implementing HACCP programs in their
district. Further, directors who were not certified portrayed a stronger attitude
that certification did not improve employee food-handling practices. Also, younger
directors and those who were not certified agreed that improved food-handling
practices were an advantage to employee certification.
Challenges to implementing HACCP programs.
The responses of school foodservice directors to challenges to implementing
food safety and HACCP programs are presented in Table
3. In general, the school foodservice directors were in agreement with
the challenges identified by the focus group. The directors rated most of the
statements at the middle range of the continuum of always a problem and never
a problem. The statement that the school foodservice directors rated as being
the most problematic in their district was that employees are nervous about
taking the food safety exam. A related item, "employees do not feel comfortable
with change," was rated as "sometimes a problem." The other item
that earned a higher-than-neutral rating was "inadequate time for sanitation
and safety courses and in-service training for employees." Thus, employee
focus is the area that most needs to be addressed.
A principal factor analysis with varimax orthogonal rotation
was performed on the challenges scale. The three factors identified were: Factor
1=resource management (α=0.85); Factor 2=employee motivation (α=0.86);
and Factor 3=employee food safety certification confidence (α=0.71).
Multiple linear regression was performed for each factor on the
challenges scale. The independent variables were:
- district size;
- education level;
- years employed in foodservice;
- years employed in school foodservice; and
- food safety certification.
The significant variables for the challenges scale are presented
in Table 4. These variables accounted for a small
percent of the variance in each factor.
The analysis revealed that younger school foodservice directors
and directors with more education perceived resource management and employee
motivation to be more of a challenge to implementing food safety and HACCP procedures
in their district than did other directors. Further, the directors perceived
that the larger the district size, the less confident employees are about food
These findings are consistent with the literature. According
to Zuckerman (1988), a shortage of qualified foodservice employees makes following
and monitoring food safety practices difficult. Also, the responsibility for
monitoring food safety now is placed upon employees who are younger and less
experienced than employees in the past.
Lipowski (1999) also reported similar findings. With the increase
of retiring school foodservice directors in the year 2000, qualified potential
directors willing to fill these positions have not been readily available. Therefore,
future directors may not have adequate knowledge and skills related to food
safety and HACCP programs.
Improving food safety. The school foodservice
directors were asked to complete the following open-ended statement: "I
could improve food safety in my district if...." Fifty-one percent of the
directors who responded indicated that the greatest obstacles to improving food
safety are time and money. This included lack of time for the directors to monitor
food safety procedures and lack of funds to send employees to food safety training.
Other challenges were reported, including:
- employee attitude;
- lack of adequate facilities;
- lack of staff;
- more time needed for employees to attend training;
- directors need more help;
- lower employee turnover;
- more money for training staff; and
- not having a HACCP program in place.
Challenges identified with this question were consistent with
the challenges identified by the focus group.
The majority of school foodservice directors did not have a
HACCP program in place, and many were unsure of what it was or how to apply HACCP
principles to their operation. There appear to be challenges to implementing these
programs, and efforts need to be made to overcome these challenges.
Resources on HACCP programs and their implementation in school
foodservice clearly are needed. Information about HACCP needs to be better disseminated
to school foodservice directors in a format that they can take and use. For
example, sample standard operating procedures related to HACCP implementation
could be developed and distributed. Model HACCP programs designed specifically
for school foodservice would be useful resources. State agencies, the National
Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), and the American School Food Service
Association could provide information. These resources should address the time
and money challenges that school foodservice directors face.
Programs and materials related to HACCP need to be presented
in a practical, realistic, and step-by-step manner. If school foodservice directors
are expected to implement HACCP in its entirety, the process may be too overwhelming
and may not occur. If a realistic timetable and process were developed, implementation
could be facilitated.
Based on these results, it is apparent that younger and less-experienced
school foodservice directors need assistance in handling the food safety challenges
encountered in school foodservice. Younger directors were more likely to be
college educated, which may mean they have a greater awareness of the need for
implementing HACCP programs, although they may need technical assistance.
New directors should complete courses related to food safety
and HACCP program implementation. A key focus area would be on motivating employees
to follow standard operating procedures related to food safety. Additionally,
mentoring of younger school foodservice directors by more experienced directors
through networking at conferences, telephone calls, site visits, and other means
would serve as a reference and support system for these directors. Foodservice
directors need to be encouraged to participate in food safety courses that already
exist. They need to be providing these programs to their employees, beginning
when employees are hired.
The biggest challenges identified were items related to employee
nervousness about taking food safety certification examinations and not feeling
comfortable with change. Improving employees' confidence in their food safety
knowledge and their ability to make changes is one area that school foodservice
directors should focus attention. Training, supervision, and feedback all are
strategies that might improve employee confidence and ability to implement HACCP
programs. While these strategies are related to the time barrier that was identified,
the time required to make these changes might be good investments in the long
Further, additional research needs to be conducted to determine
models for HACCP implementation that are successful in school foodservice. More
research on ways to overcome challenges also would be useful.
The authors thank the School Food Service Foundation (now the
Child Nutrition Foundation) for funding this research through the Hubert Humphrey
Research Grant. We also wish to acknowledge all of the school foodservice directors
who supported this research by participating in the focus group, pilot test, or
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Joan Giampaoli is assistant professor, Department
of Nutrition and Food Science, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA. Jeannie
Sneed is associate professor, Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management,
Iowa State University, Ames, IA. Mary Cluskey is assistant professor, Department
of Nutrition and Food Management, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Harold
F. Koenig is associate professor, College of Business, Oregon State University,