The networks were hugely beneficial to participating retail food regulatory programs. Benefits included:
- efficient conformance with the Retail Program Standards,
- resource sharing to aid fellow jurisdictions in going beyond conformance, and
- strengthening communication with state and federal entities.
Support through federal grant funding, such as the National Environmental Health Association-US Food and Drug Administration Retail Flexible Funding Model Grant Program, and peer-sharing initiatives were also beneficial to the networks. Grant funding allowed network members to participate in trainings, such as the Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshops and the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO)’s Retail Program Standards Mentorship Program, and served as empowerment to encourage other retail food regulatory programs to enroll in similar educational opportunities and join the networks. The dissemination of information throughout a network allowed all members to have access to current information and allowed them to react to shifting priorities.
The study sample consisted of three networks that were comprised of more than six local health departments; Iowa, North Carolina, and Pacific Northwest Retail Program Standards Networks.
NACCHO and the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) led and authored this study. The three networks in the study participated in focus groups facilitated by NACCHO’s Research & Evaluation team to share their experience of being part of a network.
Even as barriers to participation in these networks existed, participants largely noted that the Retail Program Standards Networks served as a means of inspiration for other retail food regulatory programs seeking to achieve conformance.