Facilitating Fresh: State Laws Supporting School Gardens Are Associated With Use of Garden-Grown Produce in School Nutrition Services Programs

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine whether state laws are associated with the presence of school gardens and the use of garden-grown produce in school nutrition services programs.

Design:

Nationally representative data from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2014 were combined with objectively coded state law data regarding school gardens.

Main Outcome Measures:

Outcomes were: (1) the presence of a school garden at each school (n = 419 schools), and (2) the use of garden-grown items in the school nutrition services program.

Analysis:

Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine each outcome. Contextual covariates included school level, size, locale, US Census region, student race/ethnic composition, and percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-priced meals.

Results:

State law was not significantly associated with whether schools had a garden, but it was associated with whether schools used garden-grown items in nutrition services programs (odds ratio, 4.21; P < .05). Adjusted prevalence of using garden-grown items in nutrition services programs was 15.4% among schools in states with a supportive law, vs 4.4% among schools in states with no law.

Conclusions and Implications:

State laws that support school gardens may facilitate the use of garden-grown items in school nutrition service programs. Additional research is needed regarding the types of messaging that might be most effective for motivating school administrators to appreciate the value of school gardens. In addition, another area for further research pertains to scaling garden programs for broader reach.

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