Open Access Research article

Watch Me Grow: A garden-based pilot intervention to increase vegetable and fruit intake in preschoolers

Rebecca J Namenek Brouwer1 and Sara E Benjamin Neelon12*

Author Affiliations

1 Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, 310 Trent Hall, Durham, NC 27710, USA

2 Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, 2200 W Main St, DUMC 104006, Durham, NC 27705, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:363  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-363

Published: 18 April 2013



Americans, including children, consume fewer fruit and vegetable servings than is recommended. Given that young children spend large amounts of time in child care centers, this may be an ideal venue for increasing consumption of and enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables. This pilot study aimed to assess the feasibility of a gardening intervention to promote vegetable and fruit intake among preschoolers.


We enrolled two intervention centers and two control centers. The intervention included a fruit and vegetable garden, monthly curriculum, gardening support, and technical assistance. We measured mean (SD) servings of fruits and vegetables served to and consumed by three children per center before and after the intervention.


Post intervention, intervention and control centers served fewer vegetables (mean (standard deviation) difference of -0.18 (0.63) in intervention, -0.37 (0.36) in control), but intervention children consumed more than control children (+0.25 (1.11) vs. -0.18 (0.52). The number of fruits served decreased in all centers (intervention -0.62 (0.58) vs. control -0.10 (0.52)) but consumption was higher in controls (intervention -0.32 (0.58) vs. control 0.15 (0.26)).


The garden-based feasibility study shows promise, but additional testing is needed to assess its ability to increase vegetable and fruit intake in children.