Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Elizabeth Anderson Steeves

Committee Members

Marsha Spence, Katherine Kavanagh


Background: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Nutrition Programs (SNPs) provide free meals to children during the summertime when the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP) are not available. Only 14.1% of students who participated in free/reduced-price NSLP participated in SNP in 2018. Increasing the availability of SNP sites is one strategy to increase participation. A comprehensive understanding of current SNP site availability is an important first step towards increasing site availability. Objective: To present a robust examination of SNP site availability per county in Tennessee to assess density and consistency of SNP availability and to document perspectives of SNP personnel to identify key features that aid in program success.Design: This study used a mixed methods design. A heat map presented SNP site availability data to represent density (the number of sites in a given area) and consistency of site availability (the fluctuation of site availability throughout the summer). The heat map ranked the counties based on site availability and identified positive deviants. Next, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis was done on the qualitative data to identify five themes that contributed to high levels of site availability.Dataset/Subjects: Data were retrieved from the USDA FNS Capacity Builder on all open SNP sites in Tennessee in 2018 (n=2073). Interview participants (n=12) were SNP staff members.Results: The weekly average standardized density of SNP sites was 2.36 (SD=3.85) sites. Weeks in June had significantly higher site densities (3.32±4.02) than July (2.41±4.09, p=0.017) and August (0.61±0.92, p=0.001). Heat map analysis identified positively deviant counties (n=16). Thematic analysis revealed five themes that promoted SNP program success: site accessibility, sites linked with community programs, kid-friendly foods, approach to administrative requirements, and staff values.Conclusions: This study presented a novel assessment of SNP site availability by using heat map and positive deviant methodologies in SNP research and by assessing density and consistency of site availability. The five themes revealed key features that participants believed contributed to the overall success and high availability.

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