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Health center–based community-supported agriculture: An RCT

S.A. Berkowitz, J. O'Neill, E. Sayer, N.N. Shahid, M. Petrie, S. Schouboe, M. Saraceno, R. Bellin
Am J Prev Med

Introduction: Socioeconomically vulnerable individuals often face poor access to nutritious food and bear a disproportionate burden of diet-related chronic illness. This study tested whether a subsidized community-supported agriculture intervention could improve diet quality. Study design: An RCT was conducted from May 2017 to December 2018 (data analyzed in 2019). Setting/Participants: Adults with a BMI >25 kg/m2 seen at a community health center in central Massachusetts, or who lived in the surrounding county, were eligible. Intervention: Individuals were randomized to receive either subsidized community-supported agriculture membership (which provided a weekly farm produce pickup from June to November) or healthy eating information (control group). For equity, the control group received financial incentives similar to the intervention group. Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was the Healthy Eating Index 2010 total score (range, 0–100; higher indicates better diet quality; minimum clinically meaningful difference, 3). Healthy Eating Index was assessed using 3 24-hour recalls per participant collected each growing season. Intention-to-treat analyses compared Healthy Eating Index scores between the intervention and control group, accounting for repeated measures with generalized estimating equations. Results: There were 128 participants enrolled and 122 participants for analysis. The participants’ mean age was 50.3 (SD=13.6) years; 82% were women; and 88% were white, non-Hispanic, with a similar distribution of baseline characteristics comparing the intervention and control groups. Baseline Healthy Eating Index total score was 53.9 (SD=15.3) in the control group and 55.1 (SD=15.2) in the intervention group (p=0.68). The intervention increased the mean Healthy Eating Index total score relative to the control group (4.3 points higher, 95% CI=0.5, 8.1, p=0.03). Food insecurity was lower in the intervention group (RR=0.68, 95% CI=0.48, 0.96). Conclusions: A community-supported agriculture intervention resulted in clinically meaningful improvements in diet quality. Subsidized community-supported agriculture may be an important intervention for vulnerable individuals.
Trial registration: This study is registered at NCT03231592.

Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Identifying and Intervening on Social Needs in Clinical Settings: Evidence and Evidence Gaps, which is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kaiser Permanente, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This article is included in the PCORI Social Needs Interventions to Improve Health Outcomes Evidence Map. Click here to access evidence map.

Berkowitz SA, O'Neill J, Sayer E, et al. Health center-based community-supported agriculture: An RCT. Am J Prev Med.2019;57(6):S55-S64. DOI:

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Health & Health Behaviors
Social Determinant of Health
Study design
Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)
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