Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Melissa Hansen-Petrik

Committee Members

Carol Costello, Lisa Jahns


Childhood overweight and the associated health consequences have become a significant health problem in the United States and particularly in the state of Tennessee, with 14.8% of U.S. and 20.0% of Tennessee youth’s aged 10-17 currently classified as being overweight (1). Environmental factors play a significant role in the etiology of overweight, and therefore need to be considered in efforts undertaken to address this problem. Schools are one such environment where U.S. children spend a great deal of time, making the school food environment, which includes all foods available in schools (such as foods served in the school meals, a la carte foods, school stores, and school vending machines), an important contributor to the nutritional health of today’s children.

The school food environment may be influenced by the education, training, and experience of the school food service director as well as the functions and availability of a Registered Dietitian in the school district. Therefore, this research study was designed to examine the education and qualifications of school food service directors in public school districts in Tennessee and to investigate the characteristics of Registered Dietitians in the structure of school nutrition programs.

This research found that the requirements for the food service director position in Tennessee public school districts generally exceeds the average national position requirements and that food service directors in Tennessee have higher levels of education than their counterparts across the nation. However, certain characteristics of Tennessee school districts such as smaller size and rate of economic disability in the school district were associated with less desirable characteristics in the food service director position such as lower requirements for the position and lower education and credential levels of the individual in the food service director position.

Many changes are underway in school health and child nutrition programs in Tennessee and this research provides necessary baseline information on which legislation to establish education and credentials requirements for food service directors can be pursued.

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Nutrition Commons