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Nutrition: Gardening Interventions to Increase Vegetable Consumption Among Children

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What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF uses recently published systematic reviews to conduct accelerated assessments of interventions that could provide program planners and decision-makers with additional, effective options. The following published review was selected and evaluated by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to obesity, nutrition, and school health:

Savoie-Roskos MR, Wengreen H, Durward C. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake among children and youth through gardening-based interventions: a systematic review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2017;11(2);240-50.

The systematic review included 14 studies that examined gardening interventions conducted with children ages 2 to 18 years (search period January 2005 – October 2015).

The CPSTF finding is based on results from the published review, additional information from the subset of studies, and expert input from team members and the CPSTF.

Context

A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables (Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 External Web Site Icon). Most people in the United States, including children and adolescents, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables (CDC, 2017; CDC, 2014). Gardening interventions have been shown to increase children’s preferences for, and willingness to try, new fruits and vegetables (Robinson-O’Brien et al, 2009).

CDC recommends gardening as a strategy to increase fruit and vegetable intake among children (CDC, 2011). Gardening interventions also are included within the Healthy Eating Learning Opportunities component of CDC’s Comprehensive Framework for Addressing the School Nutrition Environment and Services pdf icon [PDF - 2.95 MB] External Web Site Icon.

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement.

The systematic review included 14 studies.

  • Consumption of vegetables increased (12 studies) while fruit consumption did not change (10 studies).
  • Interventions, including nutrition education in addition to gardening activities, were more effective than gardening activities alone.

Summary of Economic Evidence

A systematic review of economic evidence has not been conducted.

Applicability

While additional research is warranted, the CPSTF finding is likely applicable to interventions in elementary and middle school settings in high income countries.

Evidence Gaps

Additional research and evaluation are needed to answer the following questions and fill existing gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

  • Are interventions effective in early care and education, afterschool, and community settings?
  • Are interventions effective when implemented without nutrition education?
  • Does effectiveness vary by age or school level?
  • Do children participating in gardening programs act as agents of change by engaging parents in discussion about food and nutrition? Do parents incorporate healthier dietary habits or purchasing practices at home?

Study Characteristics

  • Interventions were conducted in the United States (10 studies), the United Kingdom (2 studies), Australia (1 study), and Canada (1 study).
  • Interventions were implemented in schools (8 studies), afterschool settings (2 studies), communities (2 studies), early care and education settings (1 study), and multiple settings (1 study).
  • Study participants had the following demographic characteristics:
    • Mean age of 9.0 years (7 studies)
    • 51.5% female (10 studies)
    • Black (median 18.0%, 4 studies), Hispanic (median 44.5%, 6 studies), Asian (median 8.0%, 5 studies), White (median 29.6%, 6 studies), and First Nations (100.0%, 1 study)
  • Intervention characteristics:
    • Interventions included nutrition education in addition to gardening activities (7 studies)
    • Intervention duration ranged from 2.5 to 18 months, with a median of 4 months

Publications

There are no Community Guide publications for this systematic review.