Friday, June 10, 2016
DFS Week 4 Reaction
This week, I completed approximately 8 hours of work. I had the first interview yesterday with the director of School Health and Nutrition Services. It was the perfect person for me to start this process with as he also straddled the education and public health fields. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about!
Some of the challenges he talked about was getting buy-in of school administrators and leadership. There often is a disconnect between health and education (speaking my language!) and he said that many times schools will focus on math and English scores. They do not see that there is a connection between a healthy and well-nourished student body and academic achievement even though there has been so much research on how nutrition (and other health measures) impacts learning. For example, just 20 minutes of physical activity significantly improved math scores. I asked him how he approached this issue, how he persuaded leaders to come on board. I was surprised that it seemed to be more reactionary than a proactive approach. Many times teachers and kitchen staff will approach them for help in implementing standards and changes to their programs. Teachers may notice that their students hit that afternoon slump after eating poorly during lunch. They will in return give resources, such as curriculum, for teachers to talk to their students on better food choices to fuel them throughout the day. Of course, this is only effective when students are the purchasers of food (such as in high school) rather than having their parents just pack them food.
Otherwise, he tries to appeal to the Rider side of the administration and show them how provided reimbursable meals can improve their bottom line. They appeal to the logic. I still am surprised that they do no react to the data on improvement of testing scores and health.
One thing that stood out to me were the program's activities with the lunch staff, those making and serving food to students. He said they had no problems with buy-in and that they were often enthusiastic about adopting higher standards. I'm sure this is because they are immersed every day and see the impact of food and nutrition on students. They did have a hard time knowing how to make changes to achieve these higher standards. The program sends trainers to individual schools, as well as larger trainings/workshops, to give the hands-on training. He said this motivates people by seeing their role and learning exactly how to achieve the goals. Now that the lunch staff have to complete a certain number of training hours per year to remain certified (and employed), the program acts as a resource that positively empowers them. It sounded like many lunch staff are Elephants, that is, people who are motivated by the emotional impact to the work and the program plays on this to keep them motivated and enthusiastic to learn.
Additionally, on a large white board in his office, he had a brainstorm of a strategic plan. They had in the past only focused on areas that needed to be brought up to minimal standards. They had never looked at all the areas of responsibility of the program and specified goals for each one, even if it meant keep up the status quo. I have some experience developing a strategic plan for programs, so we discussed different areas and how to measure goals.
This interview was fascinating to see how he tried to motivate different people in the implementation of their activities and promotion of their overall goal. I have always found my leadership style to be one that emphasis the data to motivate people, as that is what motivates me. There needs to be a balance and it is even more important to recognize when to use what type of motivation with who.