Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences

Degree Level



Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness


Nathan Kemper

Committee Member/Reader

Ryan Patterson

Committee Member/Second Reader

Brandon McFadden


Childhood obesity in American children has tripled in the last 20 years, and 85% of current healthcare spending is linked to diet-related diseases. The consumption of highly processed foods is linked to these trends and makes up more than half of an average American youths’ diet. Reducing the consumption of highly processed foods in children’s diets can be addressed, in part, by addressing childhood neophobia (willingness to try new foods) associated with whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Influence over behavioral areas such as nutrition and in early childhood is essential to long-term sustained health, and garden-based interventions shows promise for improving childhood nutrition and health outcomes. This study has two main objectives: 1) to create and deliver a curriculum lesson for students to learn about making healthier food choices and 2) to evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson to (a) increase willingness to try fresh fruits and vegetables and (b) measure food neophobia in students. The key curriculum concepts focused on identifying the differences between unprocessed and highly processed foods, reducing consumption of heavily processed foods, and how healthy food choices affect the body and the planet. Data was gathered in pre-lesson, short-term post-lesson, and long-term post lesson surveys for one hundred and twenty-five fourth grade students from Happy Hollow and Butterfield Elementary schools in the Fayetteville Public School Districts. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine whether the difference between means of the independent groups were statistically significant. Means were compared between male and female genders and between the Pre, Post1, and Post2 survey. Our findings were that Food Neophobia Scale Questions (FNS) were significantly different in the short-term post. Students generally scored lower on the FNS scale questions in the short and long-term post programming. These results suggest immediate and sustained impacts of the intervention on students' food neophobia. The curriculum's experiential component, where students interact with food ingredients to complete a recipe and then taste the final products, significantly increased students' preference for sweet potatoes, a healthy, minimally processed food present as the main ingredient in the recipe used for the curriculum. This change in willingness to try roasted sweet potatoes was significant in the short-term comparison results but the effect was reduced over time (though not back to baseline levels). These results imply that a single experience may not be enough to expect long term behavioral change. Overall, the study's findings affirm the efficacy of the garden-based curriculum in mitigating food neophobia and promoting a preference for minimally processed foods among children. The key findings were the reduction in food neophobia, enhancement of healthy food preferences, and sustainability of changes. The results underscore the need for ongoing research into the scalability of garden-based intervention curriculum.


Food Neophobia, Garden Intervention, Childhood Health Outcomes, Food Preferences, Curriculum Development, Nutrition Curriculum