This research was approved by the Saint Louis University Institutional Review Board.
Community garden intercept survey
This study included 12 community gardens, representing seven counties within the 12-county intervention catchment area. As part of the intervention, communities received funding for garden equipment, technical assistance, and access to a regional community garden resource network. The placement of intervention gardens depended on the interest and commitment of each community. Five of the 12 gardens were newly developed for this intervention period. Seven gardens existed prior to the intervention and expanded during the intervention period. The community garden formats varied across the study sites. Half of the community gardens (n = 6) had a single large plot tended collaboratively by multiple gardeners. The other half (n = 6) included multiple individual plots within a larger designated area each tended by individual gardeners. Gardens ranged in size from 147′ to 132′ for the single plot to 4′x20′ for individual plots. Community gardens with individual plots included between six and 40 plots each; 3 of these gardens utilized raised beds as the individual plots. The number of gardeners per garden ranged from three to sixteen. The garden season lasted from approximately May 1st to September 30th.
A quantitative, self-administered, post survey was conducted with a convenience sample of community gardeners from each of the 12 intervention gardens during October of 2011. Gift cards were provided to respondents in appreciation of their participation. The intercept survey included questions about demographics, frequency of working in the community garden, and the self-perceived impact of working in the community garden on behaviors, attitudes, knowledge and skills . Frequency of working in the community garden was dichotomized into “once a week or more” and “less than once a week.” A five-point Likert scale that ranged from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree” was used as response options for questions on behavior, attitudes, knowledge, and skills. Responses were dichotomized as “Yes” if response was “Agree” or “Strongly Agree,” and “No” if response was “Neutral,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree.” “Don’t know” and “refused” responses were excluded from analysis.
Population-based telephone survey
The Survey Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University conducted 1,000 telephone interviews with adult respondents from the following towns in the 12-county intervention catchment area: Charleston, Ellington, West Plains, Mountain View, and Doniphan. The towns were chosen because they each have a community garden within a five mile radius. Household telephone numbers were selected from a random-digit-dial sample of 16,000 landline numbers within a five-mile radius of the latitude and longitude coordinates for each town. The sample included households with unlisted numbers. The total number of completed surveys from each location was stratified according to 2009 population estimates. Interviewers collected data during October and November 2011.
Interviewers asked respondents about demographic characteristics based on questions from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) questionnaire . The research team assessed respondents’ perceptions of their social and physical environments across three domains: sense of belonging, social cohesion, and food environment. Respondents were asked to answer questions on social and physical environment using a five-point Likert scale that ranged from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree”. The sense of belonging scale included items such as “my community is a good place for kids to grow up” and “I expect to live in this community for a long time .” The social cohesion scale included items such as “people around here are willing to help their neighbors,” and “this is a close knit community .” The food environment scale assessed ease of buying fresh fruits and vegetables in their neighborhood, quality of fresh produce, selection of fresh produce, ease of buying low fat products, quality of low fat products, and selection of low fat products . Scores for each scale were summed for component questions within each domain to produce a composite domain score, with higher domain scores reflecting stronger sense of belonging, social cohesion, and food environment.
The research team assessed community garden participation based on questions developed by Litt and colleagues for measures of garden participation in Denver . Community garden was defined as a garden where land is shared by others. Community garden participation was defined as growing fruits and vegetables in a community garden and/or receiving fruits and vegetables from a community garden in the last six months; all others were coded as non-participants of community gardens.
Fruit and vegetable consumption was measured using six items from the 2009 BRFSS  that determine the frequency of consumption of specific fruits and vegetables per day, week, month, or year. A composite measure of fruit and vegetable consumption was calculated to determine the typical number of times participants consumed fruits and vegetables per day. The composite measure was dichotomized into those who reported consuming “fruit 2 or more times a day and vegetables 3 or more times a day” (meeting recommendations) and those who do not meet this recommendation.
The research team performed all analyses using SAS version 9.3 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Descriptive statistics were used to examine study population characteristics for each survey. Both surveys were used to examine the effect of community garden participation (independent variable) on fruit and vegetable consumption (dependent variable).
Community garden intercept survey
Because this survey was conducted on a sample of known community gardeners, community garden participation (independent variable) was based on self-reported frequency of working in the community garden: once a week or more vs. less than once a week. Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable consumption was determined by the response to “Because I work in the community garden, I eat more fruits and vegetables” (dependent variable). Responses to other behavior, attitudes, knowledge, and skills questions were secondary outcomes. Chi-square analyses were conducted to estimate the association between more frequent participation in a community garden (once a week or more) with each primary and secondary outcome.
For the population-based survey, community garden participation (independent variable) was based on self-reported community garden participation (grows fruits and vegetables in a community garden, or obtained fruits and vegetables from a community garden in past 6 months) vs. non-participation. Fruit and vegetable consumption (dependent variable) was based on a composite measure estimating consumption of eating fruits 2 or more times a day and eating vegetables 3 or more times per day (reflecting meeting and not meeting the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations). A series of multivariate logistic regression models were used to examine the relationship between community garden participation and fruit and vegetable consumption with and without adjustment for covariates. Model 1 examines the effect of community garden participation alone on fruit and vegetable consumption. Model 2 adds sociodemographic covariates: gender, race/ethnicity, age, and education. Model 3 adds sociodemographic covariates as well as social and physical environment domains: social cohesion, sense of belonging, and food environment.