The sample consisted of 396 parents, recruited from 30 preschools across the Hunter region. Of the 57 preschools within the sampling frame, 30 consented, 19 were ineligible, seven refused to participate and one could not be contacted. Children from approximately 2,200 families attended the 30 preschools, and 417 parents consented to participate, with a further 178 returning a form indicating that they did not consent to participate. Of the consenters, ten refused to participate when contacted to complete the survey, six were ineligible and five could not be contacted, resulting in a total of 396 parents providing data for the analysis. The study sample and the characteristics of their home food environments are described in Table .
Parent, child and home food environment characteristics of the 396 study participants
There were no significant differences between participants and those non-consenters who returned a form with respect to child age, gender, daily serves of fruit or vegetables, or level of disadvantage based on residential postcode [44
]. However, only a small proportion (approximately 10%) of the families who did not participate returned a completed consent form. In comparison with a regionally representative sample of children aged 2 to 4 years, a similar proportion of children in this study consumed at least one serve of fruit per day, but a higher proportion of children in the study consumed at least two serves of vegetables per day [45
Most parents (99%) lived with their child 7 days a week and most (74%) reported that they were 'always' responsible for their child's meals and snacks, with 22% and 5% reporting they were responsible 'most of the time' and 'half of the time' respectively. Parents consumed an average of five serves of fruit and vegetables each day and consumption levels approximated that of female adults of a similar age within the region [45
]. On average, parents ate fruit and vegetables in front of their children more than two occasions per day and provided their children with fruit and vegetables more than three times a day. While, on average, households had almost 22 different types of fruit and vegetables available in the house, fewer than half of those households (39%) kept both fruit and vegetables in a ready-to-eat, accessible format. On average, families ate together at a table 5.6 days a week (with 57% eating together 7 days a week) and children ate dinner in front of the television on an average of 2.2 days a week (with 47% not doing this at all, i.e. 0 days per week). The majority of families (87%) ate most meals at a table. Although 59% of parents indicated that they would restrict dessert 'most' or 'all of the time' when their child did not eat their dinner, 29% rewarded their child with dessert for finishing dinner. Only 4% of parents allowed their child to access snacks themselves.
The mean score for the fruit and vegetable subscale for children within the study was 14.8 (sd 4.6). Table displays the strength of the associations between children's fruit and vegetable score and characteristics of the home food environment and socio-demographic characteristics in simple and multiple regression models.
Associations between CDQ score and characteristics of the home food environment: simple and multiple regression
Simple regression analysis found statistically significant positive associations (p < 0.003) between children's fruit and vegetable consumption and the following factors: parental fruit and vegetable intake; occasions per day where parents role-model fruit and vegetable consumption; provision of fruit or vegetables to children; variety of fruit and vegetables available in the home; keeping fruit and vegetables in a ready-to-eat format (e.g. washed and chopped); and only allowing children to eat at set meal times.
Twelve characteristics of the home food environment had a p-value less than 0.25 in the simple regression models and were entered into the backward stepwise regression along with parental education, household income and child gender. The assumptions of multiple regression were tested and found to be acceptable. The regression coefficients, 95% confidence intervals and p-values for the five significant variables (p < 0.05) that were retained in the final regression model are shown in the final two columns of Table .
Multiple regression analysis indicated that higher fruit and vegetable consumption in children was significantly associated with: higher fruit and vegetable intake in parents, more frequent provision of fruit and vegetables to children throughout the day, having a wider variety of fruits and vegetables available in the home, having fruit and vegetables stored in a ready-to-eat format, and generally only allowing children to eat at set mealtimes. These variables remained significant despite controlling for parental education, household income and the gender of the child. This model of the characteristics of the home food environments accounted for 48% of the variation in the child's fruit and vegetable score. The regression coefficients suggest that, all other factors held constant, each additional occasion that parents provide their children with fruit or vegetables throughout the day is associated with an average an increase in children's fruit and vegetable score of 1.80 points, and that ensuring that children generally only eat at set mealtimes is associated with an average increase of 1.00 points in the fruit and vegetable score. The coefficients of the remaining three significant variables within the model ranged from 0.12 to 0.90.