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Mississippi Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

Print Version [pdf 82K]

Public Health Problem

Overweight and consumption of unhealthy foods are problems among youth in Mississippi. Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk for chronic disease. In 2007

  • 18% of high school students in Mississippi were obese.
  • Less than 1 of 5 (19%) high school students in Mississippi ate fruits and vegetables 5 or more times a day.

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Initiative Description

To address overweight and unhealthy eating, the Mississippi Department of Education selected 25 schools throughout Mississippi to serve as program sites for fruit and vegetable distribution free of charge. The primary goals of the program were to

  • Increase students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Help educate students about the importance of good nutrition.

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Evaluation

The evaluation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program measured

  • Changes in the variety of fruits and vegetables students ate during the school year.
  • Changes in students’ attitudes toward fruits and vegetables during the school year.
  • Changes in students’ degree of preference for fruits and vegetables during the school year.
  • The extent to which students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables changed.

The evaluation involved 725 students in grades 5, 8, and 10 from 5 of the 25 schools that participated in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot program in the 2004–2005 school year.

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Findings

As compared with the beginning of the school year

  • Students’ familiarity with fruits and vegetables increased across all grade levels.
  • Eighth-grade students reported more positive attitudes toward eating fruits and vegetables, beliefs that they could eat more fruit, and willingness to try new fruits.
  • Preferences for fruit increased among 8th- and 10th-grade students.
  • Intentions to eat fruit increased among 10th-grade students.
  • Eighth- and 10th-grade students’ consumption of fruit in school increased.
  • Eighth- and 10th-grade students’ intake of vitamin C increased in and out of school, and intake of dietary fiber increased in school.

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Implications

This program may have helped to increase student exposure to fruits and vegetables across all grade levels. It also may have had effects on 8th- and 10th-grade students’ attitudes, preferences for, and intentions to eat fruit. It appears to have helped increase 8th- and 10th-grade students’ consumption of fruit during the school year.

This was a popular program that appears to have increased awareness of the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables among students, parents, and school staff and administrators. Such a program may be a useful part of school-based initiatives to improve students’ nutritional choices.

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Sample Tools and Instruments

This section contains selected data collection tools and instruments that were used in this project. These sample instruments are posted as examples to guide development of instruments for other projects, but are not intended to be used in their current form, as they have been tailored to address specific evaluation questions of interest to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Student Questionnaire [doc 0.9M]
Questionnaire to assess students in 5th, 8th, and 12th grade for consumption of fruits and vegetables—including intentions; self-efficacy; outcome expectations; exposure and preferences; willingness to try new foods; consumption frequency; parent/peer fruit and vegetable eating behavior; and participation in and satisfaction with the fresh fruit and vegetable program.

Interview Protocols
Guides used for 15- to 30-minute interviews with key school and district staff regarding the fruit and vegetable program.

Monthly Site-Coordinator Log [doc 110K]
Log that describes implementation of the fruit and vegetable program in the previous month; documents data collection for grade levels served, fruit and vegetable suppliers, fruit and vegetable distribution methods, nutrition-related promotion and education, parent and community involvement, and program successes and challenges.

Focus Group Guides
Guides for 45-minute focus groups with students and parents regarding the fruit and vegetable program.

  • Student Focus Group [doc 77K]
    Guide for discussion on students’ impressions of the fruit and vegetable program, including fruits and vegetables that were liked and disliked, distribution methods, perceived impact, related educational activities, and suggested changes.
     
  • Parent Focus Group [doc 73K]
    Guide for discussion on parents’ impressions of the fruit and vegetable program, including fruits and vegetables that students liked and disliked, impact of the program on children’s eating habits, related educational activities, and suggested changes.
     

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For More Information

Additional information about this applied evaluation, including the full evaluation report, is available from the Mississippi Department of Education. Related publications are listed on the Journal Articles page.

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