Improving Children’s Vegetable Taste Preferences
The Impact of a School-based taste Testing Pilot Program for Elementary School Students
Background: Despite the high nutritional content of vegetables, children do not eat them at optimal levels. Research has recommended that interventions aimed at increasing vegetable preferences among children be developed and evaluated. Purpose: This study describes an evidence- and theory-informed school-based vegetable taste testing pilot program for fourth and fifth grade students and reports evaluative findings. Methods: Pre and post structured interviews with N=36 students were conducted at a public school in southern Indiana in 2013-2014. Paired samples t-tests were performed for most outcome analyses. Process evaluation was conducted using multiple methods including feedback from school personnel, observation, and student taste testing tracking. Results: The program improved children’s familiarity with, perceptions of, and peer norms for most vegetables. It also improved children’s taste preference for one of the four vegetables. The program was feasible to implement with high levels of student participation. Conclusion: Results justify further research on taste testing programs as a promising intervention to improve children’s vegetable taste preferences and other determinants of vegetable consumption. Recommendations are provided to improve the utility of these programs.