Childhood obesity remains a significant health issue, especially in disparate populations and during the summer months, when millions of children lose access to school-based feeding programs and suffer gaps in meals. The objective of this study was to measure the efficacy of a three-month garden-based summer intervention targeting low-resource youth.
Summer Harvest Adventure (SHA) is a five-year randomized controlled trial targeting children and parent/adult caregivers (PAC). In year one (of three), a total of 72 children (ages 8-11 years) were randomized to a garden-based intervention or enhanced control group. The intervention consisted of theoretical-driven and evidence-based group education, produce (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) harvesting, cooking demonstrations, remote motivational interviewing, and e-technologies. Data collected at baseline (month zero) and post-intervention (month three) included sociodemographics, quality of life, dietary patterns, family dynamics, program satisfaction; anthropometrics, body composition, physical activity, cardiovascular risk, and skin carotenoids were measured objectively.
Sixty-four percent of SHA participants met study adherence criteria (> 75% attendance). The mean age of enrolled was 8.7 (+/- 0.47) years with 50% male and 57% African American or mixed race. Over 90% of SHA participants rated SHA as “excellent or very good.” Compared to controls, SHA youth exhibited greater improvements in FV intake, physical activity, quality of life, family relationships, skin carotenoids, and carotid intimal thickness. Statistically significant improvements were seen in blood pressure and visceral adiposity (both P < .05) in the SHA cohort. Compared to controls, SHA PAC also exhibited improvements in behavioral outcomes such as increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and significant improvements in application of MyPlate for meal planning (P < .05).
Conclusion and Implications
Powered for three years, this project will continue to evaluate the impact of SHA in promoting an anti-obesogenic environment for low-resource families during the summer months. Information gleaned from this project will be used to empower families and to establish a summer obesity prevention model for youth, built upon replicable criteria that can be implemented on a national scale.