Published: October 2019

ID #: 74129

Journal: Translational Behavioral Medicine

Authors: Rains CB, Giombi KC, Joshi A

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For children from low-income families, school meals are a significant portion of daily caloric intake and hence an opportunity to address food insecurity. Many states have pursued legislation to institutionalize programs such as farm to school that aim to improve the quality of school meals and acceptance of healthy foods (fruits and vegetables) to address the interconnected problems of food insecurity, hunger, and diet-related diseases. Oregon established its Farm to School Education Grant Program to increase knowledge of and preference for fruits and vegetables among children in low-income school districts. This article outlines the reach of the education grants and examines their influence on children’s food choices and behaviors related to fruits and vegetables. Researchers analyzed Oregon Department of Education Farm to School Baseline and Progress Reports from school year 2015–2016 and conducted interviews with education grantees. Education grants reached more than 20,000 students in 30 districts, including 25 low-income districts. The most reported activities were nutrition and food-based lessons, school gardens, and farm field trips. Thematic results included students eating fruits and vegetables, trying new foods because of gardens, and learning about growing produce. Oregon’s Farm to School Education Grant Program reached the targeted low-income students, encouraged districts to implement educational activities, and allowed low-income children to learn about produce. Education is a core element of farm-to-school success and can help achieve the behavior change in youth needed for increased acceptance of school meals, better health outcomes, and improved food security.

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