Fruit and vegetable intake among children is inadequate. Garden-based nutrition education programs may offer a strategy for increasing fruit and vegetable intake in children. A 12-week pilot intervention was designed to promote fruit and vegetable intake among 4th to 6th grade children (n=93) attending a YMCA summer camp. Children participated in garden-based activities twice per week. Weekly educational activities included fruit and vegetable taste tests, preparation of fruit and vegetable snacks, and family newsletters sent home to parents. The pilot intervention was evaluated using a pre and post survey to determine participant satisfaction and the short-term impacts of the program. The process evaluation focused on program satisfaction, whereas the short-term impact evaluation assessed fruit and vegetable exposure, preference, self-efficacy, asking behavior, and availability of fruits and vegetables in the home. Data from the impact evaluation were compared from baseline to follow-up using McNemar's test (dichotomous variables) and Wilcoxon signed rank test (scales/continuous variables). Children reported high levels of enjoyment in the intervention activities. Most children (97.8%) enjoyed taste-testing fruits and vegetables. Children also liked preparing fruit and vegetable snacks (93.4%), working in their garden (95.6%), and learning about fruits and vegetables (91.3%). Impact data suggest that the intervention led to an increase in the number of fruits and vegetables ever eaten (P<0.001), vegetable preferences (P<0.001), and fruit and vegetable asking behavior at home (P<0.002). Garden-based nutrition education programs can increase fruit and vegetable exposure and improve predictors of fruit and vegetable intake through experiential learning activities. Participation in the "seed to table" experience of eating may help promote healthful eating behaviors among youth. Food and nutrition professionals should consider garden-based nutrition education programs that connect children with healthful foods through fun, hands-on activities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
FUNDING/SUPPORT: Support for this project came from the JB Hawley Student Research Award and through the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Fellowship Training grant award T71-MC00006 (Principal Investigator: Michael Resnick, University of Minnesota) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
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