Measuring School Foodservice Workers’ Perceptions of Organizational Culture
School foodservice workers (SFW) are a direct link to children eating school meals. SFW who perceive positive and supportive organizational culture at their school nutrition departments also may perceive that such environments foster their own promotion of healthful food choices by students. To date, there are no questionnaires that directly assess organizational culture in school foodservice departments. The objective of this paper is to report the development and psychometric analysis of a questionnaire designed to measure the organizational culture of a school foodservice department.
A questionnaire for teachers that measures constructs similar to organizational culture was adapted for SFW. The 26-item anonymous questionnaire was competed by SFW in 14 schools that participated in a snack bar intervention for another research project. Exploratory factor analysis was used to examine construct validity and identify subscales. Scale reliability was assessed using Cronbach’s alpha and factor-based scores were computed for each resulting scale. Analyses of variance were conducted to assess differences in the resulting scales by demographic characteristics.
One hundred and seventeen SFW completed the questionnaire (66% Hispanic, 62% > 40 years of age, all women). Two factors accounting for 44.2% of the variance were obtained: Managerial Support (11 items, alpha=0.86) and Collegial Support (13 items, alpha = 0.88). Adults 40 years and older reported significantly higher Managerial Support than did those who were under 40-years-old. There were no differences by treatment condition.
Application to Child Nutrition Professionals
The questionnaire provides measures of individual SFW perceptions of their work relationships and of managerial support. Such perceptions could influence job performance and atmosphere within foodservice departments. Future research should more intensively analyze the relationships with larger samples of schools in diverse areas.
Schools are key settings for providing children with health promotion programs designed to enable them to establish healthy dietary and physical activity behaviors that will reduce chronic disease risks in later life (Allensworth & Kolbe, 1987). School meals are one component of school health promotion programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets nutrition standards for school meal programs and provides resources to help schools provide pleasant eating experiences, quality school meals, other healthy food options, and nutrition education in schools (USDA Team Nutrition, 2007). School foodservice workers (SFW) are a direct and vital link to children eating school meals. However, little research has focused on factors that might impact SFW behavior in the school cafeteria and, ultimately, affect children’s food consumption.
Student perceptions of school foodservice operations have been studied. Both high school (Meyer & Conklin, 1998) and middle school (Meyer, 2000) students reported that school foodservice staff behaviors (i.e. staff smiling and greeting students, staff being polite to customers) were significantly related to overall satisfaction with school meals. High school students who reported higher satisfaction with school meals reported eating school meals more frequently (Meyer & Conklin, 1998). One study examined the perceptions of 235 SFW on their influence on student food choices (Fulkerson et al., 2002). About 90% of these SFW reported that interacting with students was an important part of their job, but only about 50% reported that influencing student purchases was an important part of their job. Although about 80% reported being comfortable giving recommendations to students about what to purchase in the cafeteria, only about 28% reported believing that SFW could influence substantially student cafeteria purchases. Trained study staff conducted observations of 210 SFW -student interactions; 209 interactions were rated as positive; but no SFW made spontaneous recommendations (Fulkerson et al., 2002). However, 16 students (7.6%) asked for a recommendation and 15 of these 16 students purchased the recommended product (Fulkerson et al., 2002). In a recent study, verbal encouragement by SFWs, a component of the intervention, was significantly related to the study outcome of increased lunch fruit consumption (Perry et al., 2004). Findings from these two studies suggest that SFWs may be able to influence positively student school food choices. Little research has focused on what influences SFW behavior.
The construct of reciprocal determinism proposes that behavior is influenced by the interaction among the environment, personal factors, and behavior (Bandura, 1986). The Organizational Health Inventory (OHI) is a questionnaire for teachers that generates five component scales measuring various aspects of school culture: 1) Teacher Affiliation; 2) Collegial Leadership; 3) Resource Influence; 4) Institutional Integrity; and 5) Academic Emphasis (Hoy et al., 1991). In previous research, the scales of the OHI were correlated positively with student reading, math, and writing achievement in elementary (Hoy & Hannum, 1997), secondary schools (Hoy et al., 1990), and with teachers’ general and personal self-efficacy for teaching (Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993).
There are no questionnaires that assess aspects of organizational culture associated with school foodservice departments. The researchers hypothesized that SFWs who perceive positive and supportive organizational cultures may also view their environments as supportiveof their own promotion of healthful food choices to students. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to report the development and psychometric analysis of a questionnaire measuring aspects of school foodservice department organizational culture.
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Baylor College of Medicine. Participant consent was obtained prior to the completion of the anonymous questionnaire. The SFWs were employed in 14 schools in three school districts in the Houston, TX, area. These schools were participating in a two-semester cafeteria intervention promoting fruit and vegetables in school snack bars (Cullen et al., 2005; Thompson et al., 2007).
The Organizational Culture Inventory for SFW (OCI-SFW) was adapted by the authors from the OHI developed by Hoy, Tarter, and Bliss (1990). The original 44-item instrument was designed to measure organizational health in schools, as perceived by teachers, by capturing three levels of responsibility and control: Technical, Managerial, and Institutional. The original scale contained seven dimensions, yielded acceptable reliability coefficients between 0.87 to 0.95, and showed evidence of construct validity through factor analysis (Hoy & Feldman, 1987). The OCI-SFW was modified so as to be applicable to the organizational structure and culture of school foodservice departments, as perceived by the SFW. The OCI-SFW contained 26 items with a four-point scale (1=Never, 2=Sometimes, 3=Often, and 4=Always).
At the end of the 2001-02 school year, study staff invited SFWs to complete the anonymous questionnaire during a sanctioned break at work. Participation was completely voluntary. The questionnaire was available in English and Spanish. Study staff met with the SFWs at each school and administered the questionnaire. Data collection was completed over a three-week period.
Exploratory factor analysis was used to examine the construct validity of the OCI-SFW. Some common rules in determining sample size for factor analytic techniques are based on the number of participants per number of variables. Although these numbers have varied between two to 20 participants per variable, Stephens (Stevens, 1996) recommended five participants per variable and Hatcher (Hatcher, 1994) has suggested that the minimum sample size should the greater of 100 participants or five participants per factor. Other researchers have suggested that the magnitude of the loadings is an important factor in determining adequate sample size. For example, Guadagnoli and Velicer (1988) demonstrated through simulation that, regardless of the sample size, factors with a minimum of four loadings less than 0.60 are reliable. Although the sample size in this study was less than the 120 recommended (24 items and five participants), both factors contained more than four loadings less than 0.60. The factors were extracted using the principal components estimation method and promax rotation. The reliability of each factor was assessed using Cronbach’s alpha, and factor-based scores were computed for each scale. To assess differences in scales by participant characteristics and school treatment condition, analyses of variance with random school effects were performed.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The sample included 117 SFW from 14 schools in the greater Houston area; this was an 80% participation rate. Slightly more than one-third (37.9%) of the sample was under 40 years old (Table 1). Approximately one-half (53.1%) had worked in the particular cafeteria for less than five years. All reporting gender (n=105) were female. Nearly two-thirds of the sample (65.8%) were Hispanic.
Initial exploratory factor analysis of all 26 items yielded two factors, however, two items had little to no relationship to one or both factors and were eliminated. Exploratory factor analysis performed on the reduced set of 24 items yielded two factors accounting for 44.2% of the variance (Table 2). The factors were identified as Managerial Support (11 items) and Collegial Support (13 items). Correlation among the scales was moderate (r=0.59). Reliability was excellent for both Managerial Support and Collegial Support scales (0.86 and 0.88, respectively).
The only significant difference in the scales by demographic characteristics was for Managerial Support by age group [F(1,98)=5.20,p=.025]. On average, adults 40 years and older reported a mean score two points higher on the Managerial Support Scale, as compared to adults under 40 years old.
This study modified an existing school organizational health questionnaire for teachers for use with SFWs. Two scales were produced: The Managerial Support scale included questions relating to cafeteria manager responsibilities as perceived by SFWs, while the Collegial Support scale measured individual SFW relationships with colleagues, students, and staff. These scales are similar to two of the scales (Teacher and Collegial Leadership) in the original teacher OHI, suggesting that supportive leadership and collegial relationships contribute to a perception of a positive and healthy environment in both of these school departments. Previous studies with the teacher OHI documented that these scales were related to student achievement (Hoy & Hannum, 1997; Hoy et al., 1990) and with teachers’ general and personal self-efficacy for teaching (Hoy & Woolfolk, 1993). Perhaps the SFW Managerial Support and Collegial Support scales will be shown to be related to positive cafeteria environments that are supportive of healthy student food choices. But this is an area for further research.
The OCI-SFW had 40% fewer questions than the original OHI, due to differences between the roles and responsibilities of teachers and SFWs. Thus, it is not surprising that the OHI scales of Resource Influence, Institutional Integrity, and Academic Emphasis were not found in the OCI-SFW. Questions addressing these components were included in the OCI-SFW, but grouped into the Managerial Support and Collegial Support scales during factor analysis. The new scales had good internal consistency. Differences were found only between the two age groups. SFWs older than 40 years old reported significantly higher mean Managerial Support that those under 40 years old. This difference may be related to the job expectations of older SFWs compared to younger SFWs. Older SFWs may be more established and used to working in close contact with managers in school cafeterias. Differences in generational expectations also may account for these findings.
Several limitations to this study must be noted. All data were self-reported from SFWs in middle schools in one geographic location and the majority of participants were Hispanic. Therefore, these results may not be “generalizable” to other areas and school populations.
CONCLUSIONS AND APPLICATIONS
This is the first report on a questionnaire measuring SFW perceptions of organizational culture in school foodservice departments. The two scales, Managerial Support and Collegial Support, provide measures of individual SFW perceptions of their work relationships and the managerial support they receive, and these can be used to assess these influences in school foodservice departments. Future research should investigate whether these questionnaires measure similar perceptions among SFW in diverse areas.
This research is a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Research Service (USDA/ARS) Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX. This project has been funded, in part, by federal funds from the USDA/ARS under Cooperative Agreement No. 58-6250-6001. The contents of this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the USDA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. This work also was supported by a grant CA88511 from the National Cancer Institute.
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Cullen and Watson are, respectively, associate professor and data analyst for the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.