Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018;118:275-283.


Copyright 2018 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Open access


Background Gardening interventions have been shown to increase fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake among school-aged children. It is unknown whether these effects persist into later adolescence or adulthood, and little is known about whether gardening in later adolescence is related to F/V intake. Objective To identify the relationship between both childhood and recent (within the past 12 months) gardening experiences and current F/V intake among college students. Design/participants A cross-sectional evaluation of 1,121 college freshmen with suboptimal F/V consumption from eight US universities. Main outcome measures Participants completed the National Cancer Institute Fruit and Vegetable Screener and questions about gardening experiences. Respondents were grouped as having gardened or not gardened during childhood and recently. Statistical analyses performed A linear mixed model was used to evaluate the relationship between childhood and recent gardening and current F/V intake. Results Of the student participants, 11% reported gardening only during childhood, 19% reported gardening only recently, 20% reported gardening both as a child and recently, and 49% of students reported never having gardened. Students who gardened both during childhood and recently had a significantly higher mean current intake of F/V compared with students who never gardened (2.5_0.6 vs 1.9_0.5 cup equivalents [CE], respectively; P<0.001). In addition, F/V intake increased with frequency of recent gardening engagement when comparing students who did not garden with those who gardened monthly or weekly (2.1_0.5 CE, 2.4_0.6 CE, and 2.8_0.7 CE, respectively; P<0.001). Conclusions This analysis suggests that the combination of childhood and recent gardening experience is associated with greater current F/V intake among first year college students not currently meeting national F/V recommendations. In addition, a greater frequency of gardening experience may further enhance this effect.