Access Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Ben Pogodzinski

Abstract

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was reauthorized to create school environments that provide nutrient-dense meals to students who are living in poverty. The free and reduced-price lunch program helps 19% of students who are living in poverty in America (Kids Count Data Center, 2017). These students arrive at school hungry and often times are more concerned about their hunger than the content they need to learn. In order to assist them in learning, the school lunch program has been established. With the policy reauthorization of Public Law 111-296, students have been able to receive nourishment in the school cafeterias that meet USDA guidelines for a healthy meal. The guidelines that were developed were intended to fight the obesity epidemic that has been growing for decades. As schools were housing the nation’s plan for combating hunger and obesity, the leaders were mandated to follow the policy.

The literature had yet to examine sensemaking in regards to the administrators who carry out the policy in the school system. This qualitative case study explored the ways in which school administrators and staff understand the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This case study enacted the voices of the multiple stakeholders this policy impacts including foodservice directors, the executive chef, cafeteria workers, and building principals. This study upheld sound research ethics as it delved into the lives of the policy implementers.

The results of the data indicate that administrators engage in sensemaking with the policy. How they feel about the policy and the engagement they have with the law dictates the way in which the policy filters through the school system. Each building principal found their role to mirror that of an advocate for students when it came to the food service company. They also worked to encourage healthy eating choices in the cafeterias. As policy implementers, each respondent viewed their role as a way to enact nutritional eating in the cafeterias. The themes the administrators share are policy implementers, role in nourishment, access to and consumption of nutrient-dense foods, food insecure students, actions taken to mitigate obesity, and aspirations for policy implementation of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

It was in the work of the leaders that the policy was able to work as intended. The building principals and foodservice director used the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to aim to create a more democratic community in their school system in regards to nourishing students. When the administrators had a passion and vision for healthy eating, they shared it with the students. Whether through osmosis in the food choices or through relationships, the building level administrators were found to be the real change in healthy eating in the cafeteria. When they shared healthy choices as their mission, the way they engaged with sensemaking and this policy, their actions with the program were enriched and enriched the lives of the students they serve.

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