Monitoring Food Service Guidelines
Monitoring tracks progress in the implementation of your food service guidelines initiative. You can track or audit progress by determining what foods and beverages are offered in the various food venues and assessing whether those foods and beverages meet your specific standards for food service guidelines. A baseline assessment of the food environment with periodic tracking will allow you to see progress and maintenance in meeting standards over time.
Using Checklists to Monitor Compliance
Checklists are the simplest and most targeted data collection tool to determine whether the standards of your food service guidelines are being met. A compliance checklist is a short list of the specific food, nutrition, and behavioral design requirements that can be measured onsite through a relatively quick inspection. In general, checklists can be used to measure whether the foods and beverages offered meet your food service guidelines standards.
Most checklist items should be able to be assessed by a staff member with minimal training and with minimal assistance from the food service manager and food service staff. However, the amount of time and assistance required will depend upon the specific standards being assessed. For example, standards specifying the availability of a minimal number of fruit or vegetable options may be easy to measure. Standards based upon nutrients or ingredients, such as sodium or trans fats may be more difficult to assess if the facility does not display nutrition labels. Ensuring that food service guidelines include requirements for nutrition labeling or signage to indicate healthy items will not only assist patrons in selecting healthy options but will also allow easier assessment of standards. Finally, standards which specify that certain foods be made available during a specific season (for example fresh fruits and vegetables) or on a regular but non-daily basis (such as requiring fish served twice per week) may also require examination of menu rotation schedules or consultation with staff.
If you specify the frequency that monitoring will occur for each setting and venue, you can ensure the sustainability of your food service guidelines efforts. In some cases, food service managers can complete the compliance checks after they are sufficiently trained. Including this requirement in food service contracts is a good way to ensure long term sustainability of compliance. Occasional training and independent inspections by your personnel or contractor should be included to ensure data quality and consistency across facilities. When this is not possible, worksite wellness committee members can sometimes be trained to aid in compliance monitoring.
Special Considerations for Monitoring Packaged Snacks
The food and nutrition standards for packaged snacks in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities may be somewhat complicated to assess. The standard requires that 75% of packaged foods must include a specific food as the first ingredient and meet requirements for calories, saturated fats, and sugar. Attempting to assess all available packaged foods requires careful reading of nutrition facts and ingredient lists and conducting calculations. This can take much time and staff resources and may not be possible in vending machines where the items cannot be accessed without purchasing. To reduce the time required to assess packaged snacks, you can:
- Create or obtain lists of specific packaged products that are already known to meet the standards (for example, Smart Snacks in School products will also meet criteria for the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities).
- Use calculators currently available to assess whether packaged items meet standards. You can use the Food Service Guidelines Calculator for Packaged Snacks and Beverages excel icon[XLXS-49.3KB] which will enable you to determine which products meet the federal food service guidelines. You can also use a calculatorexternal icon designed for Smart Snacks in School. Products that meet Smart Snacks in School criteria will meet standards for the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities but will not permit some foods or beverages that are allowable under the federal guidelines.
- Use signs or symbols to identify foods that meet standards. This can help shorten the time for your assessment. You will need to check periodically as to whether the signs are properly assigned to items that meet standards.
You can use the following checklists to assess compliance with the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities.