Evaluating a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in low-income children: A quasi-experimental study.


Sharma SV; Markham C; Chow J; Ranjit N; Pomeroy M; Raber M


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a new school-based food co-op program, Brighter Bites (BB), to increase fruit and vegetable intake, and home nutrition environment among low-income 1st graders and their parents. This was a non-randomized controlled comparative effectiveness trial (2013-2015). Six schools received BB (n=407 parent-child dyads); six comparison schools implemented a coordinated school health program (n=310 parent-child dyads) in Houston, Texas, 2013-2015. Brighter Bites (BB) is a 16-week school-based food co-op comprising weekly distribution of fresh produce (50 servings); nutrition education in schools and for parents; and weekly recipe tastings. Measurements included parent-reported home nutrition environment surveys, and food frequency questionnaires for parent and child. Intervention effects were examined using multivariate analyses. At baseline, the sample was 71% Hispanic, 24% African American; 43% of 1st graders were overweight/obese. Children receiving BB had significant increases in intake of fruit servings (P=0.046), vegetable servings (P=0.049), and decreased intake of added sugars (P=0.014). Among parents, there were significant increases in fruit consumed (P=0.032); vegetable intake increased baseline to midpoint but not post-intervention. Among BB families, there were significant improvements in the home environment including understanding and usage of nutrition facts labels to make food purchases (P<0.05), frequency of cooking (P=0.007), rules and practices regarding eating family meals (P=0.022), serving fruits (P=0.005) and vegetables (P=0.028) at meals, and limiting portion sizes (P=0.016). In conclusion, a school-based food co-op model shows promising results in improving dietary habits and home nutrition environment among low-income families.


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