ICN Applied Research Division

Supporting Child Nutrition Professionals


OVERVIEW The Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) Applied Research Division (ARD) is located at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. ARD conducts research to assist schools and other organizations that participate in federally funded child nutrition programs (CNP). This research is geared toward helping professionals provide high-quality, nutritious, cost-effective meal service. ARD supports the mission of ICN as an industry leader in child nutrition (CN) research. ARD uses an applied research method to address the operational issues that impact CNPs across the country. Researchers at ARD involve key stakeholders (such as the national advisory council, local CNP operators, and State agency CNP professionals) to conduct their projects. These projects help determine best practices for issues impacting the operation of CNPs as well as assist in the development of resources and training.


ARD assists CN professionals by strengthening employee competence and helping them address issues within their CN operations. The primary research focuses for ARD are operational accountability, wellness, equipment/design, human resources, customer service, green/environmental conservation, and best practices.


ARD applies a mixed-method research approach. Researchers use a broad range of qualitative research techniques, such as case study site visits, semi-structured interviews, hosting focus groups, observing CNP operations, and conducting expert panels and work groups. Information acquired from qualitative research can then be used to conduct quantitative research , such as creating national surveys to gather measurable information. WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF ARD’S RESEARCH ON CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS? ARD makes a difference by increasing knowledge in areas where little or no research has been conducted. Through this research, the ARD determines best practices for addressing issues that impact the operation of CNPs, and the ARD also creates resources to assist CN professionals with their CNP operations.

WWW.THEICN.ORG 800.321.3054


Since ICN’s inception, the ARD has conducted research projects to identify the competencies, knowledge, and skills (CKS) needed for the effective performance of CN professionals. This is the division’s signature resource series . The first projects completed were for school nutrition (SN) directors/supervisors and SN managers. ARD has completed CKS research on district- level SN Professionals, local-level SN assistants and technicians, State agency professionals, and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) professionals. The resources developed from the CKS research are valuable to the CNP industry and include information on how to create job descriptions, how to design training and professional development programs for specified staff, and a framework for evaluating and mentoring staff for professional positions. The CKS series also provides the foundation for the development of education and training at ICN.

Visit the Institute of Child Nutrition Applied Research Division to learn more about the projects and research conducted.

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN ICN ARD RESEARCH? ARD’s research projects invite a broad range of CN professionals who work in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, CACFP, and other federally funded CNPs. Researchers also value contributions from CN professionals who have recently retired from working with these programs. ARD uses multiple methods to recruit a diverse team of participants to help explore as many facets of a topic as possible. When you see an opportunity to participate in ARD research, please do not hesitate to contribute!

MEET THE ARD TEAM DR. MARJUYUA LARTEY is the director of the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division at the University of Southern Mississippi, with 25 years of experience teaching, research, and practice in nutrition and dietetics. Marjuyua graduated from Alabama A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Hospitality Management and completed a dietetic internship, a Master’s degree, and a doctorate in Nutrition and Food Systems/Human Nutrition from the University of Southern Mississippi. A firm believer in lifelong learning, Marjuyua regularly shares knowledge gained through nutrition research with co-workers, nutrition professionals, and community members. DR. KEITH RUSHING is a Research Scientist with the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division. Keith’s higher education achievements include a Doctorate Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education from Texas Tech University, a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from The University of Southern Mississippi, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Mississippi State University. In 1993, Keith became a registered dietitian. His work experience includes 12 years in healthcare and school foodservice management and 16 years at The University of Southern Mississippi, 10 of those at the Institute of Child Nutrition Applied Research Division as a research scientist and two as director. His research interests include financial management and productivity as they relate to the operation of school nutrition programs. DR. KRISTI L. LEWIS is a Research Scientist with the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division, an educator, and registered dietitian in private practice for her business, K. Lewis Consulting, LLC. For over 21 years, her nationally recognized research has focused on childhood obesity, community health programs, and the development of best practices for serving young children; and exploring wellness in child care operational issues facing foodservice staff.

DR. JANE PETERSON is a Research Scientist with the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Food and Nutrition and a Master of Science degree in Nutrition at North Dakota State University. In 1990, she started her career as a registered dietitian. She practiced clinical dietetics before transitioning to teaching and research. In 2008, Jane earned her Doctorate in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Nutrition from South Dakota State University. Dr. Peterson has over 30 years of experience in nutrition practice, education, and research. Dr. Peterson is a member of the School Nutrition Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) professional organizations. Within AND, she is a member of the dietetic practice group (DPG) for research and the school nutrition services (SNS) DPG. DR. KYMBERLE GORDON is a Research Scientist with the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Nutrition at the University of Mississippi. During her time at the University of Mississippi, she was a research consultant for the Institute of Child Nutrition, and the Applied Sciences Research and Analytics Lab, an adjunct professor in community nutrition, and both a Teaching and Research Assistant for the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. She has a Masters in Kinesiology from Mississippi State University and a bachelor’s in Communications-Marketing from the University of New Hampshire. KAREN LOTT is Research Administrator for the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division. Mrs. Lott began her career with Southern Mississippi in 1994 holding numerous staff positions until beginning her career with ICN, ARD in 2016. In that time, she has managed grant operations for 15 years. Mrs. Lott completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1993 and Masters of Science in Instructional Technology in 2017 at USM. SHELLIE HUBBARD is a Research Assistant for the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division. She received a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Southern Mississippi. She began her work with the institute over fifteen years ago as an editor and writer, then expanded her role to include graphic design. Her hobbies include scratch cooking and organic gardening.

HELP DESK The ICN Help Desk provides a direct link to experts who can answer a wide variety of questions on all aspects of child nutrition program management. Contact us by phone or email. Phone: 800-321-3054 Fax: 800-321-3061 Web: theicn.org helpdesk@theicn.org

HEADQUARTERS The University of Mississippi School of Applied Sciences 97 Jeanette Phillips Drive P.O. Box 1848 University, MS 38677

APPLIED RESEARCH DIVISION The University of Southern Mississippi

118 College Drive, #5060 Hattiesburg, MS 39406 601-261-2480

This project was funded using U.S. Department of Agriculture grant funds. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. The University of Mississippi is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA employer. For more information and the nondiscrimination statement in other languages: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cr/fns-nondiscrimination-statement Except as provided below, you may freely use the text and information contained in this document for non-profit or educational use with no cost to the participant for the training providing the following credit is included. These materials may not be incorporated into other websites or textbooks and may not be sold. The photographs and images in this document may be owned by third parties and used by the University of Mississippi under a licensing agreement. The university cannot, therefore, grant permission to use these images. Please contact helpdesk@theicn.org for more information. © 2023, Institute of Child Nutrition, The University of Mississippi, School of Applied Sciences

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8


Powered by