Objective: The aim of the current study was to determine the impact of school gardens on student eating behaviors, physical activity and BMI in New Zealand secondary schools. The current study also aimed to determine if school gardens could buffer the association between household poverty and adolescent BMI.
Methods: Data were drawn from a national study of the health and wellbeing of New Zealand secondary school students (n = 8500) conducted in 2012. Multilevel regression models were used to determine the association between school gardens (school-level) and student nutrition behaviors, physical activity and measured BMI (student-level).
Results: Approximately half of secondary schools had a fruit/vegetable garden for students to participate in. School gardens were associated with lower student BMI (p = 0.01) and lower prevalence of overweight (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: School gardens appear to have a positive impact on student health. Future research may explore how school gardens are implemented to better understand their impact and to extend the benefits beyond the school community.