Background

Vegetable intake among children remains inadequate despite the numerous benefits to vegetable-rich diets. Current literature suggests that gardening interventions offer a strategy for increasing children's vegetable consumption. This study examined the relationship between home-gardening and vegetable intake among low-income children.

Methods

Cross-sectional baseline data were analyzed using TX Sprouts, a 1-year school-based gardening, cooking, and nutrition intervention with 16 elementary schools in the Greater Austin, TX area.Baseline measures included: height, weight, body mass index (BMI) parameters, percent body fat via Tanita scale, and two 24-hour dietary recalls. Demographic and gardening activity information were collected via questionnaire. Children were delineated into two groups, home-gardeners and non-gardeners. Linear regressions were used to examine vegetable intake by gardening group, controlling for age, BMI z score, child’s sex, and computer use at home. Response variables were transformed for normality; unadjusted data were reported.

Results

The analytic samples included 592 children, mean age of 9.5 years, 54.1% male, 59.7% Hispanic, and 62.2% free/reduced lunch recipients. Results indicate that home-gardeners consumed 17.7% more vegetable servings/day than non-gardeners (1.6 vs. 1.3 vegetable servings/day, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.4; p< 0.02, respectively). Similarly, home-gardeners consumed 20.3% more vegetable servings/day excluding juice and potato components than non-gardeners (1.5 vs. 1.2 vegetable servings/day, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.2; p< .01, respectively).

Conclusions

These results suggest that home-gardening is associated with vegetable consumption regardless of demographic factors. Future interventions should consider promoting home and school gardens to encourage vegetable consumption among low-income youth. Findings may also have implications for school gardening programs as viable targets for increasing vegetable consumption among low-income children.