Evaluating Food Service Guidelines
The stage of development, or maturity, of your program will influence the purpose of the evaluation and the choice of evaluation questions. With a new program, you will probably want to conduct a process evaluation to help improve the program. With a mature program, you will probably want to conduct an outcome evaluation to assess your program’s effectiveness. Ideally, outcome evaluation should include and build on process evaluation.
- Process evaluation focuses on the quality and implementation of the intervention and identifies strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. This evaluation is conducted periodically during the intervention and includes assessing which activities are taking place, who is conducting the activities, and who is reached through the activities. Process evaluations also assess whether inputs or resources have been allocated or mobilized and whether activities are being implemented as planned.
- Outcome evaluation assesses whether the expected outcomes were achieved. For example, it will allow you to determine if having healthier foods available increased purchasing of healthier food items. Conducting an evaluation will require you to do a baseline assessment and an assessment once your food service guidelines have been implemented. Outcome evaluations assess the intervention’s short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term outcomes.
Long-term Outcome Evaluation
Although all types of evaluations are important, long-term outcome evaluation requires specificity of knowledge for food service guidelines. Thus, we will focus on long-term outcome evaluation for this Food Service Guideline Implementation Toolkit. In planning your long-term outcome evaluation, you will need to consider the types of settings and venues where you are implementing food service guidelines. The types of data that are available and relevant will differ according to the type of setting. The setting types are classified as to whether the food is sold, served, or given away.
- Places where foods are sold (cafeterias, vending machines, or concession stands at settings such as worksites, healthcare facilities, parks, and recreation centers)
- Places where foods are served (correctional institutions, eldercare facilities)
- Places where foods are given away (food pantries, faith-based organizations)