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Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Program

Nutrition

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2014

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

preschool, farm-to-school, nutrition, children, fruit and vegetables

Abstract

Although Farm-to-School programs have been in existence for over 15 years, but limited quantitative research has assessed the effectiveness of the programs in getting children to consume greater quantities of fruits and vegetables. This study was designed to determine the effectiveness of the Springfield Farm-to-Preschool (F2P) and Families program in increasing preschool children’s intake of fruits and vegetables using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Four preschool sites in the Mason Square region of Springfield, Massachusetts were purposefully selected to represent varying participation levels in F2P programs. Green beans, carrots, and peaches were targeted because they were commonly served at all sites. Primary data collection methods included: 1) plate waste evaluations before and after lunch; 2) observations of preschool children’s meal time behaviors; 3) interviews with foodservice staff and teachers; and 4) online surveys with school administrators. Overall, no statistical significance was revealed from our plate waste assessments but there appears to be a trend toward significance when other organizational characteristics are introduced to the model. More importantly, content analysis of the classroom observations, teacher/foodservice interviews, and administrators’ surveys revealed five key themes: (1) methods for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, (2) facilitators, (3) infrastructure, (4) benefits of a F2P program, and (5) challenges encountered by a F2P program. This study found that serving fresh fruit and vegetables alone is not enough to ensure the children will eat more of these foods. Interaction and collaboration between the multiple stakeholders involved a farm-to-preschool program is essential in order to maintain a sustainable and effective system. This study’s findings have implications for improving the dialogue between F2P partners and the schools they are servicing. Furthermore, this study produced effective and successful plate waste methods for family style serving that can inform a larger quantitative study for evaluating farm-to-preschool programs across the country.

First Advisor

Elena T. Carbone

Second Advisor

Gloria DiFulvio

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