Title of project

Parent and teacher perceptions of community garden experiences on fruit and vegetable preferences and intake of preschool-aged children: Implications for a pilot intervention

Faculty Advisor

Teri Burgess-Champoux

Department

Nutrition and Exercise Science

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Parent and teacher perceptions of community garden experiences on fruit and vegetable preferences and intake of preschool-aged children: Implications for a pilot intervention

In the United States childhood obesity remains a significant public health concern especially among minority populations. Approximately 21% of preschool aged children are classified as overweight or obese. Eating behaviors including low intakes of fruits and vegetables are risk factors for childhood obesity. This qualitative study explored perceptions, barriers, and feasible strategies for utilizing community garden experiences with preschool-aged children and their families to enhance liking, increase intake and increase home availability of vegetables. A series of 5 focus group interviews were conducted with parents (n=17) and teachers (n=11) recruited from a Head Start Program and Early Childhood Center in the St. Paul metropolitan area. Questions focused on participants’ previous gardening experiences, potential impact of gardening experiences on fruit and vegetable preferences of young children, perceived barriers and benefits, and the concept of intergenerational gardening experiences. Focus group interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded by three individual coders to generate themes. The majority of parents and teachers were female (59% parents; 91% teachers) and were Black or African American (76% parents; 64% teachers). The mean age of parents was 34 years versus 43 years for teachers. Emerging themes suggested that gardening experiences could positively impact the fruit and vegetable preferences of young children and could help a child learn patience, determination, and other important life skills. Potential barriers identified were limited resources, living in an urban environment, limited knowledge, time and physical ability. These data will guide development of a pilot community garden intervention targeting preschool-aged children and their families.