Age related variations in how school gardens affect determinants of vegetable and fruit consumption
Introduction: Within the substantial direct and indirect evidence that school gardens can enhance diet, physical activity and social cohesion, there is little information related to effects according to age. This study measured changes in knowledge of and attitudes towards vegetables and fruits (V&F) associated with the introduction of a school-based food garden, in relation to age. Methods: A school-based community food garden was installed in a state primary school in a low SES area of Brisbane, Australia. Ability to identify various V&F, and determinant factors for V&F consumption (family environment, neophobia, peer influence, preferences, nutritional awareness, perception of intake) were measured. This 12-month intervention trial used an historical control design (control n=132, intervention n=120). Data were collected from all students in grades 4 to 7 (ie. ages 8 to 12 years), using class-based, self administered questionnaires requiring one-word answers and 3-point Likert style responses. Frequency distributions for each question were generated and chi-squared analyses were used to determine statistical significance. Results: There were fewer significant attitudinal changes by school year 7 students associated with the intervention compared to other grades. Changes in school years 4 and 5 were much more focussed on personal (1st person) perspectives, compared with awareness of their social environment. Conclusions: Age-related differences in impact of the garden intervention may correspond to expansions of autonomy in food choice and other behaviours as children mature. Food based education strategies (eg school gardens) to enhance V&F consumption may be most effective in younger age groups.
Population Health Congress 2008. A Global World - Practical Action for Health and Well-being