Gardening Experience Is Associated with Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake among First-Year College Students: A Cross-Sectional Examination

Jennifer Loso, Daniel Staub, Sarah E. Colby, Melissa D. Olfert, Kendra Kattelmann, Melissa Vilaro, James Colee, Wenjun Zhou, Lisa Franzen-Castle, Anne E. Mathews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Childhood
  • College students
  • Fruit and vegetable intake
  • Gardening
  • Gardening frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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