Healthy Kindergarten Initiative

The Food Trust

Overview

The Healthy Kindergarten Initiative (KI) is a direct education and PSE Change intervention that includes an integrated, holistic approach to educating children and their caregivers about making healthy food choices and being physically active. Education is coupled with access; families are connected to local, healthy foods through innovative ways and community partnerships. Lessons integrating nutrition and healthy habits were developed to fit Pennsylvania educational standards; however, they can be adapted to meet the educational standards for other states. Learning how food grows and who grows it in combination with frequent food tastings and hands-on gardening may help increase fruit and vegetable consumption among young children.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity

Intervention Type: Direct Education, PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

The Healthy Kindergarten Initiative (KI) is a direct education and PSE Change intervention that includes an integrated, holistic approach to educating children and their caregivers about making healthy food choices and being physically active. Education is coupled with access; families are connected to local, healthy foods through innovative ways and community partnerships. Lessons integrating nutrition and healthy habits were developed to fit Pennsylvania educational standards; however, they can be adapted to meet the educational standards for other states. Learning how food grows and who grows it in combination with frequent food tastings and hands-on gardening may help increase fruit and vegetable consumption among young children.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity

Intervention Type: Direct Education, PSE Change

Intervention Components

The Healthy Kindergarten Initiative is integrated into the Whole School Whole Child Whole Community model and engages stakeholders inside the school as well as community partners to support healthy behaviors. It has 4 key components:

  1. Serving locally grown, healthy snacks to kindergarten students in the classroom on a weekly basis
  2. Integrating nutrition, physical activity and local food/agriculture education into the standard core curriculum, including identification of fruits and vegetables, learning about MyPlate food groups, “anytime” and “sometimes” snacks and understanding that food comes from farms
    • KI instructional activities include a) students taking seasonal field trips to local farms two times a year to learn about the local food system, b) teachers conducting activities about growing food in the classroom and in school gardens, and c) students participating in nutrition and physical activity lessons in the classroom
    • cooking demonstrations, including some for caregivers only and some for parents and caregivers  in the classroom
    • Teachers lead students in movement breaks throughout the day as well as teach lessons about physical activity and its benefits/importance
  3. Partnering with parents/caregivers by providing/arranging for:
    • cooking demonstrations and workshops, including some for caregivers only and some for caregivers and children
    • newsletters about what children are learning and about upcoming events
    • supermarket and famerrs markets tours when possible
    • caregivers to attend local farm trips with their child
    • increased access to healthy foods through low-cost CSAs, mobile farm markets and/or mini-farm stores (caregivers  are invited to order a variety of local, seasonal foods several times during the school year like a book club order form and local farmers supply the produce)
  4. Partnering with school stakeholders and community partners to provide support for healthy behaviors around food and physical activity.

Intervention Materials

The Healthy Kindergarten Initiative Toolkit consists of a booklet, The Kindergarten Initiative: A Healthy Start to a Healthy Life and an accompanying resource CD that contains best practices, lessons and sample caregiver newsletters.  The contents of the CD are posted on the Center TRT’s website, and additionally, can be requested from The Food Trust. All materials will be updated in the Fall of 2017.

Evidence Summary

The Healthy Kindergarten Initiative was initially developed and evaluated in the field as a practice-based intervention. In a 2005-2006 evaluation of the program, six schools were randomized so that three schools received the intervention and three did not. The majority of kindergarten students (241 out of 360) at the six schools participated in data collection, and return rates of surveys were reasonable. The 2005-2006 data showed improvements in a) children’s knowledge of a healthy diet (recommended number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables, portion sizes of foods to eat), b) children’s awareness of where food is grown, and c) number of fruits consumed by children per day (according to parent report). The revised intervention tools are being piloted in 2016-2017 and evaluated in a randomized controlled trial in six Philadelphia schools to further substantiate the evidence base.

Classification: Practice-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual ST1 MT1 LT1
Environmental Settings ST7 MT5 LT5
Sectors of Influence ST8 MT8 LT18

Evaluation Materials

Evaluation materials for the KI, such as the student knowledge assessment, end of year Parent Survey, and logic model, can be downloaded from the Center TRT website. Revised tools including student assessments, teacher surveys, caregiver pre and post surveys and stakeholder interview questions will be available in the Fall of 2017.

Additional Information

Website: The KI website (http://thefoodtrust.org/what-we-do/schools/nutrition-education) includes the KI toolkit and other resources on nutrition education in schools.

Contact Person(s):
Catharine Devigne
Manager of Adult and Early Childhood Programming
Phone: (215) 575-0444 x4122
Email: cdevigne@thefoodtrust.org