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Select the Setting to Implement Food Service Guidelines

Food service guidelines can be implemented anywhere foods and beverages are sold, served, or distributed. This includes, but is not limited to, federal, state, and local government facilities; hospitals and healthcare facilities; colleges and universities; parks and recreation centers; private worksites; faith-based institutions; correctional facilities; and food pantries. To identify which setting to first implement food service guidelines, you will want to consider reach and impact, need, ease of implementation, and whether nutrition laws or policies already exist for a specific setting.

  • Consider reach and impact. If your food service guidelines initiative will reach more people in one setting over another, then you will likely have a bigger impact on healthier food purchases, which can potentially lead to improved health of consumers. Choosing a setting with a greater reach and impact will provide the most benefit for your dollars and should be a major factor in your decision-making. For example, selecting a private worksite with only a few employees will not have great reach. Similarly, choosing a setting that only has four vending machines will not likely have a major impact on the health of employees.
  • Conduct a community needs assessment. You may want to conduct a community needs assessment [PDF-1.75MB] to determine which setting you will use. A community needs assessment examines policies, systems, and environments within a local area and helps identify gaps where improvements can take place. Using this approach, you can determine areas of need, such as areas where people have lower incomes or limited access to healthier foods. Select a setting within this area to implement food service guidelines.
  • Choose a setting where success can be obtained with minor effort.  Sometimes selecting a setting that will provide a relatively easy and quick success may be a good choice to start implementing food service guidelines. By doing this, you can develop a model example, work out kinks in your process, and build momentum for other settings. You may choose the setting because there is a champion who can help, you have partners that can provide resources to get started, or the staff at a facility you are considering have already worked toward offering healthier foods and need a little more assistance to be fully functioning.
  • Consider whether a setting is covered by existing nutrition laws or policies. Food service guidelines can be used in public places that sell or serve food to the general adult population. The guidelines are not appropriate in settings that provide foods and beverages to individuals with specific nutritional needs (such as schools, childcare facilities, or hospitals serving specialized diets to patients). Often, federally mandated nutrition standards already govern feeding programs serving these populations. For example, schools and childcare facilities are governed by federal laws and regulations, including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program. If the setting you are considering must follow an existing law or policy for food service, then select another place to implement food service guidelines. In some cases, you may still be able to augment or enhance existing nutrition standards governing a particular setting. For example, the federal Older Americans Act defines minimum nutrition standards for its senior feeding programs; however, these standards can be improved upon by applying additional food service guidelines provisions.
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