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A mobile farmers’ market brings nutrition education to low-income students

Devin Ellsworth (American University, Washington, DC, USA)
Jenny Ernst (American University, Washington, DC, USA)
Anastasia Snelling (School of Education, Teaching, and Health, American University, Washington, DC, USA)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 2 February 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of a nutrition-education intervention delivered at low-income middle schools in Washington, DC in the USA, using a mobile farmers’ market to bring hands-on lessons to schools. The program was a partnership between a local farm and university and was funded by the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition grant.

Design/methodology/approach

Seven low-income middle schools received the intervention, which included 45-minute lessons focussed on nutrition education and sustainable farming concepts. The farmers’ market was delivered via a converted school bus, allowing for full market setup at each school to provide local fruits and vegetables as teaching tools. The nutrition-education lesson focussed on the USDA MyPlate and healthy meal planning. The farm education component focussed on organic farming principles, sustainability of local food systems, and seasonality. A six question pre- and post-survey was administered to 408 participating middle school students to assess changes in knowledge.

Findings

Overall, average scores increased from 51 to 58 percent. Nutrition knowledge questions increased from 58 to 74 percent, while agriculture questions remained constant at 43 percent. Both increases significant using a two-sample t-test (p<0.001). This suggests that students gained more nutrition education concepts in this format as compared to the agricultural concepts.

Originality/value

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic that affects low-income communities disproportionally. Innovative strategies must be implemented to increase healthy food consumption. This case study presents such an approach and its value in increasing student knowledge of healthy behavior.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Approval was obtained from American University’s Institutional Review Board. The authors would like to thank the partners at Arcadia Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Washington, DC The authors would like to acknowledge Benjamin Bartley for his contribution to the educational piece of the market visits, as well as operating the market.

Citation

Ellsworth, D., Ernst, J. and Snelling, A. (2015), "A mobile farmers’ market brings nutrition education to low-income students", Health Education, Vol. 115 No. 2, pp. 171-177. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-03-2014-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited