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Extension Educators Contribute to a National Validation Study

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

This spring, two University of Minnesota Extension educators interviewed staff from four Minnesota schools to find out how well a national school wellness assessment tool works.

WellSAT 2.0 is a tool that measures how school wellness policies get put into practice. It reflects the school food requirements of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and current best practices in all areas of school wellness.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding a national validation study of WellSAT 2.0. As part of this study, graduate students from the University of Minnesota Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health were interviewing schools in the metro area. However, the lead researchers wanted to include schools in greater Minnesota. So, Nicole Larson, researcher with the U of M division, asked Kelly Kunkel and Mary Schroeder, Extension educators in health and nutrition, to interview staff from four schools in southern Minnesota.

The validation study tests how reliable and relevant the results from the assessment tool are. To collect data, Kelly and Mary conducted interviews with school principals, physical education teachers, school food service managers and directors, curriculum managers, and wellness committee members from schools in southern Minnesota. Interviews were recorded so that research staff can review the interviews and compare the outcomes of the interview with how the interviewers scored the school on paper.

In addition to the U of M Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, partners for this project include the creators of WellSAT, the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. Schools in southern Minnesota participating in this research project were BOLD High School in Olivia, Lake Crystal Elementary and High Schools, Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and Deaf Elementary and High Schools in Faribault, and Northfield High School.

Extension Educators Kelly Kunkel and Mary Schroeder contributed to this article.

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