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Kindergarten Initiative

Potential Public Health Impact

Over time, the Kindergarten Initiative has potential for broad reach, adoption, implementation, and maintenance.

Reach: Placing this intervention in a public school reaches all kindergartners in that school. Evidence on reach to parents is supported by data on parent participation in the 2005-2006 pilot study and on parents’ awareness of the program and their reports of its effects on their awareness of locally grown food.

Effectiveness: In a 2005-2006 pilot study, the effects of the intervention were tested in 6 schools – 3 randomized to the intervention and 3 to the control. A total of 241 kindergartners participated in the study. Students in the intervention school had higher knowledge of a healthy diet and of where food is grown, and they consumed more servings of fruit per day according to parent report. Children in both intervention and control schools increased their ability to read food labels. Data on the number of healthy snacks served per week also suggest that the intervention had a positive impact on students’ access to healthy foods; although, no data are available to compare the quality of snacks served before and after implementation of the intervention.

Adoption: Fifty-three schools in Pennsylvania have now adopted the program. This expansion was facilitated by the state’s passage of legislation and allocation of funding to support the program. The program has also been adopted in schools in Missouri, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Implementation: Teachers reported that the initiative was easy to implement, and education concepts were easily integrated into the regular curriculum. Implementation process data were collected on the number of teachers teaching nutrition, number of teachers trained, number of hours teachers spent teaching about nutrition and local food, number of healthy snacks served, whether snacks were from local farms, and parents’ participation in components of the program. The limited information available on how implementation data were collected limits conclusions about the extent of implementation.

Maintenance: The Kindergarten Initiative has been sustained since 2004, during which time it has expanded from 4 schools in Philadelphia to 16 schools in Philadelphia, Norristown, and Reading, and to 53 schools statewide as of 2009. In 2006, as a result of the Kindergarten Initiative pilot study, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Health Farms and Healthy Schools Act, which gives grants through the PA Department of Agriculture to schools to start similar programs.