Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Marjorie Rosenthal


Hypothesis: A garden-based high school curriculum and school lunch program positively impact the nutrition knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and health outcomes of participating urban youth. Specific aims: 1. To characterize the objectives and implementation of the Common Ground High Schools garden-based curriculum and school lunch program 2. To evaluate the effectiveness of the program in promoting healthy nutrition knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and health outcomes among Common Ground students Methods: Mixed quantitative and qualitative methods were used to conduct the program evaluation. The Common Ground curriculum was characterized through in-depth staff interviews and review of relevant policies and procedures. Surveys on nutrition attitudes, knowledge, and behavior were administered in the Fall and Spring at Common Ground and two comparison schools. Student focus groups were conducted at the three schools. Demographic data and body mass index data were gathered at Common Ground and one of the comparison schools. Direct observations were conducted in the cafeterias of the three schools; students were served vegetables during three different typical lunch periods, and the number of students that tasted and ate the vegetables were counted. Results: Common Ground students learn about health, nutrition and the food system through coursework in the organic garden, the school lunch program, and informal interactions with teachers and staff. Students at comparison schools desire higher quality school food and more control over what is served. Students at Common Ground have more knowledge about the food system than students at comparison schools, but not more knowledge about basic nutrition. Students at Common Ground ate 6.6 and 9.0 servings per week of fruits and vegetables at school at the beginning and end of the school year, respectively, while students at Comparison School #2 ate 7.7 and 6.9 servings per week. In the cafeteria observations, students at comparison schools ate more of the familiar vegetables than students at Common Ground. Students at Common Ground ate more of the unfamiliar vegetables. Average BMI of students at Common Ground from freshmen to seniors is 27.4, 26.1, 23.4, and 26.3 kg/m2. At Comparison School #2, average BMI of freshmen to seniors is 26.5, 24.1, 26.6 and 29.7 kg/m2 (ANOVA shows p = 0.0622). Conclusion: Common Grounds garden-based curriculum and school lunch program positively influences students nutrition knowledge, attitudes, behavior, and health outcomes. Similar interventions should be implemented in other schools and school systems in order to improve population health.