Date of Award

5-5-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Ike Okosun

Second Advisor

John Steward

Abstract

Introduction: For decades, school gardens have been on the rise, globally. These programs are all-encompassing programs that provide hands-on activities, such as planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables, with preparing and cooking foods which grow in the garden. There are not many studies that have looked into these school gardens, let alone how these school gardens get evaluated. The aim of this systematic review is to examine how intensely school gardens get assessed and how useful their evaluation tools can be.

Methods: Studies chosen for this review included peer-reviewed journal articles, found on PubMed, assessing the impact of learning gardens on elementary and middle school students. The items found focused on the change in children's attitude toward, preference for, knowledge and consumption of fruit and vegetables, along with their progress in school. The articles were not limited to date or location; therefore materials from other countries were included. From the search results, the author obtained eight full-text articles.

Results: All of the eight papers reviewed showed a positive change in children's health and behaviors as a result of having access to a school gardening and getting an additional nutritional education. Three papers showed no change in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, while four articles found significant increases in preference for fruit and vegetables. Also, one paper showed no major differences in fruit and vegetable knowledge, while four papers showed marked improvement. All eight of the studies used surveys in some way, one study used a food diary, three studies focused on 24-hour recall, and one looked at lunchroom observations to evaluate the research.

Conclusion: This systematic review showed that school gardens have a positive effect on children’s attitude toward, preference for, knowledge and consumption of fruit and vegetables. The evaluation techniques used in these eight studies showed that surveys were more intensely written, as well as tools with less bias, were more efficient in determining the status of school garden effectiveness.

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