Publication Date


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First Advisor

Muzaffar, Henna

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

School of Health Studies


Background: There is currently a lack of nutrition education programs that effectively increase fruit and vegetable (FV) intake among children. Not meeting the recommendations for fruits and vegetables increases the risk for poor academic achievement, obesity, and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, asthma, and more. Nutrition, cooking, and gardening lessons individually and together have shown to increase fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption in school-aged children.Methods: Two-Hundred Twenty-five 4th and 5th graders participated in six cooking and six gardening lessons between September 2021 and May 2022 at Genoa Elementary school. Each nutrition education session was 25-minutes long, paired with either hands-on cooking activities or gardening skills. At baseline and post-intervention, participants’ height and weight were assessed with a stadiometer/scale, and skin carotenoid measurement was taken by a Veggie Meter. Students also completed the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire to self-report FV consumption at both time points. Focus groups were conducted with students at the end of the program for qualitative feedback. Results: Paired samples t-test results indicated no significant decrease in BMI. There was an unanticipated statistically significant decrease in skin carotenoid scores (p < 0.01) and there was no significant change to self-reported FV intake. Additionally, the qualitative feedback was positive, as children mentioned benefits of healthy eating, and expressed enjoyment for growing, cooking, and tasting fruits and vegetables. Conclusion: Results from this study can be used to guide future cooking and gardening programs for elementary school children. Time of the year when implementing these programs and collecting data may impact study outcomes due to seasonal variations in fruit and vegetable intake.


206 pages




Northern Illinois University

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