Outdoor Learning Environments as Active Food Systems: Effectiveness of the Preventing Obesity by Design Gardening Component

      Objective: To assess the impact of a Gardening Component on 4–5 year olds enrolled in 15 childcare centers in Wake County, North Carolina, using a waitlist/control group, randomized controlled trial research design (2017–2022).
      Description: Fifteen centers were selected in 2018 and randomly assigned to intervention/waitlist/control groups to evaluate the impact of fruit and vegetable (FV) gardening on children's physical activity, FV liking, FV knowledge, and FV consumption. A standardized approach to garden installation was used locating six identical raised planting beds (8' x 2') at each intervention center, with similar, controlled growing conditions. Six FV types were selected and planted consistently at each center. Physical activity was measured using accelerometers. Fruit and vegetable liking and knowledge was measured via a modified electronic method (Carraway-Stage, et la.2014) using portable tablets. Fruit and vegetable consumption was measured using the Fruit & Vegetable Snack Tool (Witt & Duncan, 2012). Outdoor environmental quality was assessed using the Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale POEMS (DeBord, et al. 2005) and Best Practice Indicators (Cosco & Moore, 2014). The study is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University. First data gathering wave was completed in April 2018.
      Evaluation: Preliminary results will be ready for distribution in Fall 2018.
      Conclusions and Implications: Because childcare centers are policy-sensitive institutions, evidence underscoring the benefits of fruit and vegetable gardening may encourage regulators to adopt supportive rules (Tandon, Walters et al. 2016). With approximately 76% of the U.S. population living in areas with an annual growing season >200 days (IIASA 2013), a gardening component may be a promising obesity prevention strategy for young children in those regions, where 77% of total (120,000 approximatley) U.S. regulated childcare centers are located (CCAA 2012).
      Funding: 2017-68001-26354.

      Supplementary Data

      The following is the supplementary data to this article: