Community supported agriculture plus nutrition education improves skills, self-efficacy, and eating behaviors among low-income caregivers but not their children: a randomized controlled trial.
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BACKGROUND: Adults and children in the U.S. consume inadequate quantities of fruit and vegetables (FV), in part, due to poor access among households with lower socioeconomic status. One approach to improving access to FV is community supported agriculture (CSA) in which households purchase a 'share' of local farm produce throughout the growing season. This study examined the effects of cost-offset (half-price) CSA plus tailored nutrition education for low-income households with children. METHODS: The Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK) randomized controlled trial in New York, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington (2016-2018) assigned caregiver-child dyads (n=305) into cost-offset CSA plus education intervention or control (delayed intervention) groups. Following one growing season of CSA participation, changes in children's diet quality, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity; caregivers' nutrition knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and diet quality; and household food access and security were examined using multiple linear or logistic regression, with adjustment for baseline value within an intent-to-treat (ITT) framework in which missing data were multiply imputed. RESULTS: No significant net effects on children's dietary intake, BMI, or physical activity were observed. Statistically significant net improvements were observed after one growing season for caregivers' cooking attitudes, skills, and self-efficacy; FV intake and skin carotenoid levels; and household food security. Changes in attitudes and self-efficacy remained one-year after baseline, but improvements in caregiver diet and household food security did not. The number of weeks that participants picked up a CSA share (but not number of education sessions attended) was associated with improvements in caregiver FV intake and household food security. CONCLUSIONS: Cost-offset CSA plus tailored nutrition education for low-income households improved important caregiver and household outcomes within just one season of participation; most notably, both self-reported and objectively measured caregiver FV intake and household food security improved. Households that picked up more shares also reported larger improvements. However, these changes were not maintained after the CSA season ended. These results suggest that cost-offset CSA is a viable approach to improving adult, but not child, FV intake and household food security for low-income families, but the seasonality of most CSAs may limit their potential to improve year-round dietary behavior and food security. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov . NCT02770196 . Registered 5 April 2016. Retrospectively registered.