Expanding Children's Food Experience: The Impact of a School-based Kitchen Garden Program

Speakers: Lisa Gibbs, Ph, Associate Director, Community Partnerships & Health Equity Research, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program, McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, University of Melbourne Learning Objectives: Increased understanding of the impact of a kitchen garden program on food attitudes and food behaviours Increased understanding of the applications of the Health Promoting Schools Framework to expansion of food experiences Increased awareness of an appropriate evaluation framework for a school based kitchen garden program Objective: Evaluate achievement of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program in increasing child appreciation of diverse, healthy foods. Design: Comparative 2-year study Setting: Six program and 6 comparison primary schools in rural and metropolitan Victoria, Australia, matched for socioeconomic status and size. Participants: A total of 764 children in grades 3 to 6 (8–12 years of age) and 562 parents recruited. Retention rates at follow-up included 85% children and 75% parents. Intervention: Each week of the school year, children spent 45 to 60 minutes in a garden class and 90 minutes in a kitchen class. Phenomenon of interest: Program impact on children’s willingness to try new foods, capacity to describe foods, and healthy eating Analysis: Qualitative data analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Quantitative data analyzed using random-effects linear regressions adjusted for school clustering. Results: Child and parent qualitative and quantitative measures (if never tried before, odds ratio 2.0; confidence interval, 1.06–3.58) showed increases in children’s reported willingness to try new foods. No differences in articulation of food descriptions (program vs comparison groups). Qualitative evidence showed that the program extended its influence to healthy eating, but this was not reflected in the quantitative evidence. Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate program success in achieving its primary objective, meriting further program research.