The effects of a gardening, cooking, and nutrition intervention on gardening at home and food security status
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Background: There is a need for a sustainable solution to food insecurity, and gardening may impact food security status by increasing food accessibility, availability, and stability. Objective: To assess how a school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking intervention (called TX Sprouts) impacts gardening at home and to determine if changes in gardening behaviors impact household and child food security status within a large, ethnically diverse population. Experimental Approach: TX Sprouts is a cluster randomized controlled trial that targeted primarily low-income, Hispanic third- to fifth- grade students and their parents. The following measures were obtained at baseline and after the 9-month TX Sprouts program: household food security via the 7-item USDA household survey; child food security via the 5-item USDA survey; and gardening behavior at home via a 2-item survey. Descriptive and frequency statistics were run through SPSS Version 26. Change scores were computed from percentages of gardening behaviors and food security status at pre- and post-intervention. Chi-square tests and regression analyses were used to assess intervention effects on changes in gardening behaviors at home and how changes in these behaviors affected changes in food security status. The following a prior covariates were included in the regression models: sex, participation in the free or reduced lunch program, ethnicity/race, age. Results: Using regression analysis, participants in the intervention group were more likely to continue or start gardening compared to the control group independent of sex, participation in the free or reduced lunch program, ethnicity/race, and age (β: 0.200; 95% CI: 1.031, 1.446; p = 0.020). The intervention did not have an effect on household or child-reported food security status. Changes in gardening behaviors did not have an effect on household or child-reported food security status independent of intervention. Conclusions: The intervention resulted in increased gardening at home, however had no effect on food security status. Increased gardening at home was not enough to improve food security status. Future steps towards improved food security involve increased access and availability of food at home.