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Nutrients. 2019 Sep 4;11(9). pii: E2088. doi: 10.3390/nu11092088.

A Multi-Year Examination of Gardening Experience and Fruit and Vegetable Intake During College.

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Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0370, USA.
Department of Nutrition, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.
Human Nutrition and Foods in Animal and Nutritional Sciences Division, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506-6108, USA.
Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA.
Department of Business Analytics & Statistics, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Knoxville, TN 37996-0532, USA.
Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA.
Nutrition and Health Sciences Department, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0806, USA.
Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0370, USA.


Gardening has been positively associated with fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption based on short-term studies among children, but long-term data among adolescents and young adults are lacking. This investigation sought to elucidate the association between gardening experience and FV intake among college students over a two-year period. Students (N = 593) from eight universities were assessed at the end of their freshman (Y1) and sophomore (Y2) years during the springs of 2016 and 2017, respectively. At each time point, participants completed the NCI FV Screener and questions related to gardening experience and FV-related attitudes and behaviors. Students were then categorized into four groups based on gardening experience: Gardened only during the first or second year (Y1 only and Y2 only gardeners), gardened both years (Y1+Y2 gardeners), and non-gardeners. While both Y1 only and Y1+Y2 gardeners reported significantly higher FV intake relative to non-gardeners at Y1 (2.3 ± 0.9 and 2.6 ± 0.7 versus 1.9 ± 0.6 cup equivalents (CE)/day, respectively; p < 0.01), only Y1+Y2 gardeners differed from non-gardeners at Y2 (2.4 ± 0.6 versus 1.8 ± 0.5 CE/day; p < 0.001). Additionally, Y1+Y2 gardeners reported more frequent engagement of several FV-related behaviors, including shopping at farmers' markets, eating locally grown foods, and cooking from basic ingredients; and were five times more likely to have gardened during childhood (OR: 5.2, 95%, CI: 3.5-8.8; p < 0.001). Findings suggest that while isolated gardening experiences during college are associated with FV intake, reoccurring experience may be essential for sustained benefit.


childhood; college; fruit and vegetable intake; gardening; long-term

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