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Improving vegetable preference and consumption among preschool children: evaluating results from an educational intervention using vegetable gardening
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During a time of developing food acceptance patterns, preschool children fall short of meeting recommended intakes of vegetables, especially those implicated in reducing disease risk. An educational intervention was developed to increase children's exposure to a variety of vegetables through the incorporation of weekly gardening supplemented with classroom activities. The objective of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of vegetable gardening to improve preschool children's affective responses towards vegetables and subsequent vegetable consumption. A convenience sample (n = 22) of four- and five-year-old children was recruited from a university-sponsored child-care facility to participate in the eight-week nutrition intervention. Vegetable intake and preference data were collected from parents and children before and after gardening activities. Usual vegetable intake was assessed using a 14-item vegetable frequency questionnaire, completed by children's parents. A vegetable tasting protocol evaluated children's affect, or preference, for six vegetables, including four grown in the garden. No significant improvements were indicated in preschool children's preference for the tasted vegetables. Preschool children's willingness to try vegetables in the preference testing was high before and after gardening. Fewer refusals were noted for tasting green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, and radishes after gardening. Vegetable frequency questionnaires did not indicate changes in total vegetable intake after children's participation in gardening activities. Consumption of carrots, green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, and radishes was significantly correlated with children's preference scores after gardening (r = 0.47, p = 0.05). Although changes in willingness to try vegetables and improvements in preference have been noted in previous gardening research, the small sample size and limited duration of gardening activities may have precluded the detection of changes in this sample of children. Vegetable gardening offers children hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that increase children's exposure to vegetables and provides resources for tasting occasions. Because availability is a prerequisite for consumption, future research should include parental involvement in gardening activities in an effort to favorably affect parental attitudes toward vegetables and potentially increase vegetable availability in the home.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 112-125).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Lorenz, Saundra Gail (2002). Improving vegetable preference and consumption among preschool children: evaluating results from an educational intervention using vegetable gardening. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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