February/March 2018

Using school gardens to improve diet and reduce obesity in Hispanic youth and their families.

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By Shelby Knowles
Population Health Scholar
University of Texas System
Master's Student in Journalism
UT Austin Moody College of Communication


Dr. Jaimie Davis, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, studies the effectiveness of school gardening programs in low-income, primarily Hispanic areas. In 2016, Davis received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to research and implement school gardening, nutrition, and cooking programs in 16 Austin-area schools.

The study, known as TX Sprouts, includes approximately 2,400 elementary students and aims to improve dietary intake and reduce obesity and related metabolic disorders in Hispanic youth and their families. In order for schools to be eligible, they must enroll a high percentage of Hispanic students, provide free or reduced lunch to at least half of the student body, have a high proportion of overweight or obese students, and be located within 60 miles of UT Austin.

“The idea is to use gardening as a vehicle to expose them to accessible and affordable fruits and vegetables,” Davis said.

TX Sprouts targets neighborhoods that are primarily food deserts, areas that do not have ready access to groceries stores. Davis said she wants to provide residents in these neighborhoods with the knowledge and resources to use the land around them. She said that when kids are involved in where their food comes from — by helping plant, grow, harvest and prepare — they are more likely to try it and change their food preferences, which ultimately leads to an increase in the consumption of healthy foods.