Background

School gardens have become an effective health and dietary behaviors promotion strategy in the US; however, their potential impact on obesity and metabolic health is unclear. This study aims to examine the effects of TX Sprouts, a one-year school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking cluster randomized trial, on obesity and related metabolic outcomes.

Methods

Sixteen schools were randomly assigned to TX Sprouts intervention (n=8 schools) or to delayed intervention (n=8 schools) over three years (2016-2019). The intervention arm received: formation/training of Garden Leadership Committees, a 0.25-acre outdoor teaching garden, and 18 gardening, nutrition, and cooking lessons, taught during school year. The delayed intervention was implemented after 1 year of follow up. Outcomes collected on each child included height, weight, waist circumference, body composition via bioelectrical impedance, blood pressure, and dietary intake via screener. A subsample was measured for glucose, HbA1C, and 24-hour dietary recalls. Mixed effects linear regression models, accounting for the cluster effect, will be used to analyze change outcomes between intervention and control groups.

Results

Of the 4,239 eligible students, 3,137 consented and provided baseline anthropometric measures. Approximately 34% of children successfully completed an optional fasting blood draw and 24% completed two dietary recalls at baseline. Average age of children was 9.2 years and 47% were female. Approximately 66% were Hispanic and 69% received free and reduced breakfast/lunch. Forty-six percent had overweight or obesity. Post intervention data collection will be completed in May of 2019 with intention-to-treat effects this summer.

Conclusions

This is the first large, cluster-randomized trial to examine effects of a school-based garden, nutrition, and cooking program on obesity and metabolic outcomes in primarily low-income Hispanic children.