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Gardening and nutrition: A systems approach to an intervention and evaluation

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  • Education
  • Medicine


The overarching goals of this paper are to promote the use of gardens as a systems approach to education, and propose that they should be evaluated as such. Current literature shows the positive effect of gardening education on nutrition, including consumption of fruits and vegetables and nutrition knowledge. A wealth of anecdotal evidence reveals that gardening education programs affect multiple domains in the lives of participants. The first objective of this paper is to review gardening programs with nutrition education components in literature to understand the areas where these programs are already effective and what gaps still need to be filled. Another objective is to propose evaluative tools for an existing gardening program entitled "My Garden Vegetables" in Wilkinsburg, PA. These proposed tools will assess both nutrition education components of the program and components related to cooperation, sharing, and the environment. Such evaluations provide information that is vital for reshaping the goals and objectives of future programs. The proposed evaluation tools consist of a food frequency questionnaire, food preference questionnaire, nutrition knowledge game, focus group questions, interview questions, and observations. Once implemented, this evaluation has the potential to add valuable data to the relatively minimal body of research related to systems effects of gardening programs. The public health significance of this paper is that with childhood obesity on the rise, we have the opportunity to create lasting programs that not only influence nutrition knowledge but integrate that knowledge into a child's understanding of his or her role in changing the environment and developing cooperative networks.

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