Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Barrett, Sheila

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Health Studies


Nutrition; Public health; Horticulture


Adults in the United States are currently consuming too few fruits and vegetables, exercising too infrequently, and have higher body weights than is recommended for health promotion and disease prevention. These behaviors increase the risk for developing and dying from chronic diseases which are the leading killers of Americans today. There is a need for more public health strategies focused on improving health behaviors among U.S. adults. Garden programs have gained attention in recent years for their potential to improve health behaviors among participants. However, few studies have examined the impact of garden participation on health behaviors among adults. In Illinois specifically, this relationship has not yet been examined in the published literature. Further analysis of the relationship between garden participation and health behaviors among adults in the U.S. is useful for determining whether garden programs are a useful strategy for improving the health of this population. The objective of the study was to determine whether garden participation is associated with improved health behaviors among adults, including increased intake of fruits and vegetables, increased frequency of physical activity, and reduced daily stress levels when compared to adults who do not garden. The research was also aimed at identifying motivators to eating fruits and vegetables and perceived benefits associated with garden participation among the sample population. The research design was a non-experimental, cross-sectional and correlational survey study. One-hundred and three Northern Illinois adults aged 18 years and older completed a web-based survey consisting of questions regarding demographic information, fruit and vegetable intake, frequency of participation in physical activity, average daily stress levels, reasons for consuming fruits and vegetables, and perceived benefits of garden participation. On average, participants reported consuming fruits and vegetables, 180.9+/-120.1 times per month. Garden participants reported significantly (p=0.031) higher mean frequency of vegetable intake compared to non-gardeners, specifically of red and orange (p=0.007) and other vegetables (p=0.031). No significant associations were found between garden participation and consumption of other categories of fruits and vegetables, frequency of physical activity, or daily stress levels. Descriptive statistics indicated health and enjoyment are two of the most common reasons adults in this population eat fruits and vegetables. Further, most gardeners reported a variety of perceived benefits associated with garden participation, including improved healthy lifestyle behaviors. These findings highlight the potential for garden programs to improve vegetable intake among adults.


Advisors: Sheila Barrett.||Committee members: Priyanka Ghosh Roy; Emily McKee.||Includes bibliographical references.


iv, 80 pages




Northern Illinois University

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