Thirty-eight families enrolled in the study in the spring and completed the pre-gardening survey. Four more families enrolled in the summer but did not complete the pre-gardening survey, for a total of 42 families enrolled in the 2009 gardening season (), though two families dropped out prior to completion o the post-questionnaire. Of the families enrolled during the pre-gardening time period there were 163 household members. The mean age of the interviewee was 44.0, ranging from 21 to 78 years of age. Participants had lived in the U.S. an average of 20 years, ranging from 4 to 44 years. The median number of occupants in a household was 4.0 (range: 2 to 8), and the average number of children, among homes with children under 18, was 2.3 (range: 1 to 4). Eighty-one and a half percent of homes with children under 18 were two parent homes. The percent of the homes with only adults, (i.e. 18 years or older), was 33.3%. Over a third of the families (39.5%) live in communities that are less than two miles from The Next Door Inc, and about three quarters of the families (76.3%) live in communities that are less than six miles away. The furthest community is 18 miles away from The Next Door Inc. The mean garden space size reported was 132 ft2 (range: 20 to 900), which is roughly a 11 ft by 12 ft space.
Demographic Characteristics of Participants/Gardens
Participants were asked questions about their family’s vegetable intake, worry about food running out, and skipping meals before and after the gardening season (). Frequency of adult vegetable intake of “Several time a day” increased from 18.2% to 84.8%, (p < 0.001) and frequency of children’s vegetable intake of “Several time a day” increased from 24.0% to 64.0%, (p = 0.003). Before the gardening season, the sum of the frequencies of “Sometimes” and “Frequently” worrying in the past month that food would run out before money was available to buy more was 31.2% and the sum of these frequencies dropped to 3.1% during the post garden period, (p = 0.006). The frequency of skipping meals due to lack of money was not statistically significantly different before and after the gardening season for either adults or children.
Comparisons of Food Intake and Food Security Before and After Gardening Project
During the post gardening season participants were asked questions regarding use of fertilizers, compost, organic approaches for pest control, and cover crops (). A small percentage of the participants, 12.8%, used fertilizer in their garden, whereas 84.6% used compost. Additionally, 97.4% reported planning to use compost in the coming years. Only 5.1% reported using pesticides or herbicides in their garden. One hundred percent of participants reported planning to use a cover crop in the garden over the winter and 100% planned to plant another garden next year.
Post-Gardening Report of Activities, Benefits and Needed Support Associated with the Project
When asked if the garden helped the health of the family, 94.9% of participants reported that it did. A high percentage of participants (92.3%) also encouraged other families to start a garden too. Over two thirds of the participants (69.2%) reported that children under the age of 18 helped in the garden. This may have been their children, relatives or neighbors. All respondents reported receiving the support that they needed to prepare, plan, tend, and harvest the garden, though there were requests for support in the future. Specifically, many families requested support with getting seeds (n=24), composting (n=23), pest control (n=19), and advice on garden care (e.g. mulching and watering) (n=14). Almost all the families (92.1%) planned to attend the Harvest Fiesta Celebration, though of the families that responded to the question about attendance only 33.3% reported attending.
The open-ended questions, “How do you think having a garden will help your family?” and “Do you think the garden helped the health of your family? If yes, how?”, were asked in the pre and post gardening surveys, respectively. Thirty-six participants responded to the pre-gardening open-ended question, with two other participants leaving the question blank. On the post gardening survey, 38 participants answered the open-ended question, with two other participants leaving the open-ended question blank, and two other participants had dropped out of the study. The responses to these two open ended questions generated several emergent themes (). Comments about physical health benefits and economic benefits were the most frequently mentioned concepts in the pre-gardening open-ended question. Comments about mental health and well-being, and family health were mentioned much less often. In the post gardening open-ended question, physical health benefits was still the most frequently mentioned concept, however, comments about economic benefits were mentioned much less often.
Emergent Themes from Responses to Pre-survey and Post-survey Questions: Pre: How do you think having a garden will help your family? Post: Do you think the garden helped the health of your family? If yes, how?
One participant responded to the pre gardening open-ended question by expressing a desire to learn how to cultivate more vegetables, falling under the concept of “learning” (data now shown). Additionally, when participants were asked why or why not the gardening meetings were helpful, almost half (10/21) of participants mentioned the benefits of learning from others through sharing knowledge and experiences.
provides summary results from the 10 post-gardening key informant interviews. Two core questions were asked and from these six themes emerged. The primary area of importance relevant to what the gardening program has meant for these underserved families is food security and safety. A secondary theme is carrying on the traditions from their home country. The second core question was relevant to the sharing and learning educational program delivered about pesticides and other aspects of organic gardening. Both anticipated and unexpected learning occurred related to both the gardening program and building trust with investigators from the academic partnership.
Thematic Summary from Post Gardening Key Informant Interviews - 2009/2010 Harvest Fiesta