A Study of the Impact of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in Alabama Schools
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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This study examined the fruit and vegetable intake of a large sample of Alabama school children in elementary schools receiving fifty percent or more free or reduced priced lunch who qualify for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The results of this study provide insight as to whether access to a variety of fresh produce, in additional to nutrition education during the school day, affects students’ food choices. The investigator sought to answer the following questions: (1) What, if any, is the difference in the types of fruits and vegetables consumed weekly by Alabama children participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program compared with children in non-participating schools? (2) Does school involvement with the FFVP significantly increase student’s nutrition knowledge? (3) Are students in FFVP schools more likely to try new foods when they are offered at school? (4) Does school involvement with the FFVP affect the types of fruits and vegetables consumed at home? Findings revealed that students at FFVP (intervention) schools appear to have sampled a greater variety of fruits and vegetables and were slightly more likely to report consuming healthier snacks compared to students in non-FFVP (control) schools. However, there was no difference in the types of fruits or vegetables students reported consuming over the course of one week. Neither group reported consuming more than five different types of fruits or vegetables in one week. Students in both groups appear to be receiving nutrition education during the school day. The results suggest that the majority of students in both groups are knowledgeable about which foods are healthier than others and can use that knowledge to make healthy food choices when presented with healthy options. The majority of students in both groups reported that they liked trying new foods at school; however, FFVP participants were slightly more likely to report that they enjoy trying new foods when offered at school. There appears to be no difference in the types of fruits or vegetables consumed at home by treatment or control groups. Control group students were more likely to report wanting to try a greater variety of fruits and vegetables at home. The investigator concluded that there is a need for further examination of Alabama’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Student food preferences, nutrition knowledge, and the types of foods consumed at school and at home were similar between groups. The questionnaire produced consistent answers from students in study and control groups providing insight into the eating habits and behaviors of third and fourth grade students across Alabama. Student responses recorded in this study can be incorporated into planning future Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs.