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Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 19(13)2022 06 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1911332


School nutrition programs mitigate food insecurity and promote healthy eating by offering consistent, nutritious meals to school-aged children in communities across the United States; however, stringent policy guidelines and contextual challenges often limit participation. During COVID-19 school closures, most school nutrition programs remained operational, adapting quickly and innovating to maximize reach. This study describes semi-structured interviews with 23 nutrition directors in North Carolina, which aimed to identify multi-level contextual factors that influenced implementation, as well as ways in which the innovations during COVID-19 could translate to permanent policy and practice change and improve program reach. Interviews were conducted during initial school closures (May-August 2020) and were deductively analyzed using the Social Ecological Model (SEM) and Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). Analysis elicited multiple relevant contextual factors: director characteristics (motivation, leadership style, experience), key implementation stakeholders (internal staff and external partners), inner setting (implementation climate, local leadership engagement, available resources, structural characteristics), and outer setting (state leadership engagement, external policies and incentives). Findings confirm the strength and resilience of program directors and staff, the importance of developing strategies to strengthen external partnerships and emergency preparedness, and strong support from directors for policies offering free meals to all children.

COVID-19 , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Child , Diet, Healthy , Food Insecurity , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , Schools , United States
Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 19(1)2021 12 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1580805


During spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying public health advisories forced K-12 schools throughout the United States to suspend in-person instruction. School personnel rapidly transitioned to remote provision of academic instruction and wellness services such as school meals and counseling services. The aim of this study was to investigate how schools responded to the transition to remote supports, including assessment of what readiness characteristics schools leveraged or developed to facilitate those transitions. Semi-structured interviews informed by school wellness implementation literature were conducted in the spring of 2020. Personnel (n = 50) from 39 urban and rural elementary schools nationwide participated. The readiness = motivation capacity2 (R = MC2) heuristic, developed by Scaccia and colleagues, guided coding to determine themes related to schools' readiness to support student wellness in innovative ways during the pandemic closure. Two distinct code sets emerged, defined according to the R = MC2 heuristic (1) Innovations: roles that schools took on during the pandemic response, and (2) Readiness: factors influencing schools' motivation and capacity to carry out those roles. Schools demonstrated unprecedented capacity and motivation to provide crucial wellness support to students and families early in the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts can inform future resource allocation and new strategies to implement school wellness practices when schools resume normal operations.

COVID-19 , Heuristics , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , School Health Services , Schools , Students , United States
Public Health Nutr ; : 1-23, 2021 Dec 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1565094


OBJECTIVE: The objective was to examine risk and protective factors associated with pre- to early-pandemic changes in risk of household food insecurity (FI). DESIGN: We re-enrolled families from two statewide studies (2017-2020) in an observational cohort (May-August 2020). Caregivers reported on risk of household FI, demographics, pandemic-related hardships, and participation in safety net programs (e.g. CARES stimulus payment, school meals). SETTING: Maryland, United States. PARTICIPANTS: Economically, geographically, and racially/ethnically diverse families with preschool to adolescent-age children. Eligibility included reported receipt or expected receipt of the CARES stimulus payment or a pandemic-related economic hardship (n=496). RESULTS: Prevalence of risk of FI was unchanged (pre-pandemic: 22%, early-pandemic: 25%, p=0.27). Risk of early-pandemic FI was elevated for non-Hispanic Black (aRR=2.1 [95% CI 1.1, 4.0]) and Other families (aRR=2.6 [1.3, 5.4]) and families earning ≤300% federal poverty level. Among pre-pandemic food secure families, decreased income, job loss, and reduced hours were associated with increased early-pandemic FI risk (aRR=2.1 [1.2, 3.6] to 2.5 [1.5, 4.1]); CARES stimulus payment (aRR=0.5 [0.3, 0.9]) and continued school meal participation (aRR=0.2 [0.1, 0.9]) were associated with decreased risk. Among families at risk of FI pre-pandemic, safety net program participation was not associated with early-pandemic FI risk. CONCLUSIONS: The CARES stimulus payment and continued school meal participation protected pre-pandemic food secure families from early-pandemic FI risk but did not protect families who were at risk of FI pre-pandemic. Mitigating pre-pandemic FI risk and providing stimulus payments and school meals may support children's health and reduce disparities in response to pandemics.