New Zealand children are not meeting fruit and vegetable recommendations. Garden to Table, an in-school cooking and gardening programme, offers a potential solution.
To evaluate the effects of Garden to Table participation for at least one school year on children’s fruit and vegetable consumption and variety of intake, their knowledge of and attitudes towards fruits, vegetables, cooking and gardening, and their cooking- and gardening-related self-efficacy and behaviours.
An epidemiological study comparing the amount and variety of fruit & vegetables consumed, and knowledge, attitudes and self-efficacy related to fruit & vegetables of two groups of children: 158 students aged nine to 11 who had been in the Garden to Table programme for at least one school year, and 128 students from control schools, matched for year level. Quantitative evaluation used adapted versions of the Ministry of Health’s 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey food frequency questionnaire and the children’s questionnaire used in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden evaluation. P<0.05 was used to indicate statistical significance.
No significant difference was found in the proportion of children meeting recommended overall fruit & vegetable intake between Garden to Table (38.8%) and control groups (39.8%), p=0.29. However, when individual reported fruit & vegetable consumption was summed, fruit & vegetable intakes were significantly greater in the control group (P=0.02 for both), but ranged from zero to 16 and from zero to 39.2 serves per day, respectively, indicating unreliable reporting. Significant gender and year-level interactions were present for vegetable & fruit variety, respectively, with boys in the Garden to Table group consuming 2.93 (0.18, 5.69) more vegetables per week than boys in the control group (p=0.02), and year 5 control participants consuming 3.43 (1.59, 5.27) more fruit per week than year 5 Garden to Table participants (p<0.01). The Garden to Table group had significantly greater scores for attitudes and knowledge. There were no significant differences in cooking- and gardening-related self-efficacy or behaviour scores.
The Garden to Table programme improved children’s knowledge and attitudes about cooking, gardening, fruit & vegetables. However, further longitudinal research, using reliable assessment methods, within constraints of school settings is needed to evaluate consumption of fruit & vegetables.||en