Our 2010 LA Sprouts Pilot Study

Students gardening

Students participating in a 12-week after-school gardening/nutrition pilot project.

The LA Sprouts pilot study was completed in 2010 as a twelve-week gardening, nutrition and cooking program in approximately 100 predominantly low-income Latino 4th and 5th graders from Loreto Elementary School in Los Angeles. Thirty-four students enrolled in the LA’s BEST after school program participated in our intervention, and 70 of their peers served as control subjects, meaning that they were similarly observed, but not as participants in the intervention. Once a week after school, LA Sprouts participants visited the Milagro Allegro Community Garden in Highland Park for a 90-minute educational session, which consisted of two 45-minute segments: one on cooking/nutrition and one on gardening. The garden dedicated two 6’x12’ plots for these classes, and nutrition lessons were held in a central gathering space complete with mobile kitchen islands for cooking demonstrations and snack preparation.

Topics covered in the nutrition component of the classes included adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, real food vs. processed food, strategies for eating a healthier breakfast and school lunch, the importance of fiber, and hidden sugars in sodas and other beverages. During each class students were taught how to cook an easy and healthy recipe using fresh fruits or vegetables. Examples of these recipes include vegetable quesadillas with fresh pico de gallo salsa, and beet, carrot and avocado salad. In gardening sessions led by a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, students learned about sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings, composting, watering, how to use recycled materials for gardening and plant identification. Additionally, students went on monthly trips to the Old LA Farmers Market, where they were given vouchers provided by the market to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the vendors to take home to their families. Monthly family classes were also held at the elementary school for the parents of participating students.

The pilot intervention resulted in significant improvements in measures of health, dietary intake and food preferences, and is the first study of its kind to have evaluated obesity-related parameters in response to a gardening intervention.

To obtain PDF copies our pilot study results as published in scientific journals,  click here for our first manuscript and here for our second manuscript.