Background

School gardens have become a common school-based health promotion strategy to enhance dietary behaviors; however, their potential impact on alleviating food insecurity (FI) is not fully understood. FI increases risk for chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Hispanic children are disproportionally affected by FI. This study aims to examine effects of TX Sprouts, a one-year, school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking cluster-randomized trial targeting primarily low-income Hispanic children and their families on changes in self-reported, child food security.

Methods

Sixteen schools were randomly assigned to either TX Sprouts intervention (n=8 schools) or delayed intervention (n=8 schools) over three school years, 2016-2019. The intervention arm received an outdoor teaching garden, 18 gardening, nutrition, and cooking lessons, taught during school hours, and nine parent lessons taught monthly to families. Questionnaires were administered to children at baseline and post-intervention. Food security status of children was determined via a validated 5-item Child Food Security Assessment. Mixed effects linear regression models, accounting for the cluster effect, will be used to analyze change in food security status between intervention and delayed intervention groups.

Results

Of the 4,239 eligible students, 3,137 consented and provided baseline clinical measures (average age 9.2 y; 53% male; 66% Hispanic; 69% free and reduced breakfast/lunch). FI was reported by 69% of children at baseline. Post-intervention data collection will be completed in May 2019 with intention-to-treat effects this summer.

Conclusions

This is the first large, cluster-randomized trial to examine effects of a school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking program on food security in primarily low-income, Hispanic children. This study will further our understanding of the complex bio-behavioral interactions that influence obesity.