The Effect of School Gardens on Children's Attitudes and Related Behaviors Regarding Fruits and Vegetables.
(August 1999)
Sarah Elizabeth Lineberger, B.S., Texas A&M University
Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Jayne Zajicek

Nutrition plays an important role in the life of a child because of the impact it has on growth and development. One part of proper nutrition is consumption of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. American children fall short of reaching this recommended daily minimum, indicating a need for educational intervention. School gardens can serve as a tool to teach nutrition education related to fruits and vegetables.

The purpose of this research study was to evaluate the effect gardening can have on nutritional attitudes and behaviors regarding fruits and vegetables. Three hundred and thirty two students, representing second through fifth grades from eight schools in Texas, participated in the study from the spring of 1998 to the spring of 1999. The sample consisted of an experimental group that completed a pretest, participated in the curriculum and gardening and then completed a posttest, an experimental group that participated in the curriculum and gardening and then completed a posttest only, and a control group who was not currently gardening at school and completed a posttest. Students' nutritional attitudes regarding fruits and vegetables were measured with a fruit and vegetable preference questionnaire that investigated their vegetable, fruit and snack preferences. Their nutritional behaviors regarding fruits and vegetables were evaluated through 24-hour recall journals.

Significant differences were found between the pretest and posttest scores of the children. After gardening, children had more positive attitudes toward vegetables and fruit and vegetable snacks. There was a greater improvement in vegetable preference by students who had lower scores initially. The greatest improvement in fruit and vegetable snack preferences was detected for female students and younger students. Attitudes toward fruits did not change significantly after gardening. However, preference scores indicated students possessed positive attitudes towards fruits. Fruit and vegetable consumption or behavior did not significantly improve due to gardening.

Few differences were found between the preference scores and fruit and vegetable intake of the experimental versus the control group. The data may have been influenced by variations in teacher administration of the testing, grade level, economic status, gender, ethnicity and previous gardening experience.