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Joanna Brown, Gregory Colson, Claire B. de La Serre and Nicholas Magnan

One reason for excessive body weight among youth is poor eating choices. Garden-based programs have the potential to educate children about fruits and vegetables and healthy eating generally, and improve their food preferences. This study examines the impacts of two community-based summer garden programs in Atlanta, GA, on children aged 5–14 years (n = 71). These programs spanned 1 to 2 weeks and included daily gardening activities and nutritional education. The study employs a pre- and postprogram questionnaire and a food choice experiment to evaluate changes in knowledge about and preferences for healthy and unhealthy foods. Results show that the programs substantially and significantly increased knowledge about nutrients (P < 0.01), plants (P < 0.1), and healthy foods (P < 0.01). The programs also increased the number of fruits and vegetables participants tried (P < 0.1) and their propensity to make healthy choices in the food experiment (P < 0.1). Regression analysis shows program impacts on plant knowledge (P < 0.1) and fruits and vegetables tried (P < 0.1) to be lower for African American children (n = 38) and all other program impacts to be statistically homogenous. At least in the short term, garden programs such as these can alter children’s preferences and decisions regarding healthy eating. More research is needed to see if these effects persist and ultimately improve health outcomes into adulthood.