Children who live in rural food deserts have increased needs for school-based interventions aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable intake. The purpose of this study was to understand teachers’ understanding of students’ food access, interest in school gardens, and perceived barriers for incorporating school gardens in food desert areas. Teachers (n=106) at six rural elementary schools in southern Illinois were surveyed. Results indicated interest in school gardening was highest among younger teachers (20-30 years) and those who taught social science courses. Awareness of food access for their students was prevalent among the teachers. Three factors emerged as dimensional barriers to implement a school garden: Teacher Preparedness, School Resources, and Practical Issues. Lack of adequate time, supplies, fund- ing, and growing season were identified as significant barriers. Recommendations included identifying funding sources for school gardens, focusing on integrating school gardens as an interdisciplinary activity in the curriculum, and targeting younger teachers as advocates for the program.

Keywords: barriers to school gardening, food desert, food access, childhood obesity