Community-Supported Agriculture as a Dietary and Health Improvement Strategy: A Narrative Review

Published:November 12, 2016DOI:


      This narrative review summarizes the literature regarding community-supported agriculture (CSA) with a focus on its use as a dietary and health improvement strategy. CSA members are typically women, white, highly educated, and affluent. The majority of members are motivated to participate in CSA by a concern for the environment and a desire for locally grown, high-quality, and organic produce. Numerous studies have provided evidence of the economic, community, environmental, and food quality related benefits of CSAs. A substantial body of literature has also explored the CSA member experience and has found that members are generally very satisfied, but membership turnover rates are often high. Research regarding the association between dietary intake and health is more limited and mostly descriptive in nature. CSA members often report increased consumption and variety of fruits and vegetables, changes in the household food environment, and changes in meal patterns. A small number of anecdotal reports also support the association between CSA participation and improved health status. However, there is a dearth of experimental research in this area, and results of these studies are mixed. Future research opportunities include longitudinal studies to evaluate repeat CSA participation and the long-term sustainability of CSA-related dietary and health changes. In addition, research is needed to address some of the methodologic limitations of the current research with regard to survey tools, generalizability of results, self-reporting bias, and CSA member support.


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      A. Vasquez is a management consultant, Vasquez Consulting, LLC, Minneapolis, MN; at the time of the study, she was a doctoral degree student, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St Paul.


      N. E. Sherwood is a senior investigator and director of scientific development, HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, Bloomington, MN.


      N. Larson is a senior research associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      M. Story is a professor, Community and Family Medicine and Global Health, and associate director for academic programs, Duke Global Health Institute, Durham, NC.