Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Heidi Wengreen


Heidi Wengreen


Tamara Vitale


Julie Gast


The nutritional status of children is declining as evidenced by the steady rise in childhood obesity rates over the last three decades. Consuming five servings of fruit and vegetables (FV) daily has shown to help with weight maintenance, but children are consuming far less than the recommended servings. This study was designed to test the efficacy of a sensory-focused multi-component school-based program at increasing vegetable intake among fifth-graders. Classroom, family, and community components allowed children to explore thirteen target vegetables with their senses including taste. Vegetable consumption was measured by digitalized observations of lunchtime vegetable selection and consumption. Vegetable acceptance was evaluated using a selfadministered survey assessing attitude and behaviors related to vegetable consumption. Measures were assessed at multiple time points and compared between the intervention school and a comparison school matched for demographic similarities.

Parental consent was obtained for 136 fifth-graders to participate in the multicomponent study and 114 were included in the plate waste study. Data were collected over six days of plate waste observations including two phases: the control phase (CP) and the target vegetable phase (TVP) where target vegetables were served in addition to the regular lunch vegetables.

Differences in mean vegetables taken and consumed during each phase of the plate waste study were analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and paired sample t-tests. When fried potatoes were included as a vegetable in the analysis, the comparison school took (P < 0.001) and consumed (P < 0.001) significantly more vegetables than the intervention school. There were no significant differences in vegetables taken (P < 0.258) and consumed (P < 0.217) when fried potatoes were excluded. Self-administered surveys were analyzed using the Fisher’s exact test and ANOVA. Significantly more children at the intervention school compared to the comparison school reported ever eating bell peppers, butternut squash, and cucumbers.

The findings of this study do not show significant differences in vegetable consumption when the intervention school is compared to the comparison school, but do show a small trend toward increased acceptance of target vegetables. Future studies should evaluate a larger sample size with increased frequency of taste testing opportunities.




This work was made publicly available electronically on September 29, 2011.