Introduction—Text-messaging interventions hold promise for successful weight loss interventions. However, there is limited research on text-messaging interventions to improve dietary intake among rural adolescents, who are at greater risk for obesity and related risk factors. The goal of this study was to test an eight-week, mentor-led text-messaging intervention among 14–16-year-old rural adolescents: the “Go Big and Bring It Home” Project to improve fruit and vegetable and healthy beverage intake. Methods and Materials—Eight rural high schools in eastern Kentucky and eastern North Carolina participated (n = 4 were randomized as intervention schools and n = 4 were randomized as control schools). Adolescents were recruited to participate in the eight-week text-messaging intervention. The text messages were primarily affective messages, and included a weekly challenge related to consuming fruits, vegetables, or healthy/low-calorie beverages. Undergraduate nutrition students sent text messages on Tuesday and Saturday every week over the eight-week period via the “Group Me” mobile application. Delayed controls received no information or text messages during the eight-week intervention. Fruit and vegetable intake was measured with the National Cancer Institute Fruit and Vegetable screener and beverage intake was assessed using the Beverage Questionnaire-10 (BEVQ-10). Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted among all those that completed the baseline and post-intervention survey (n = 277 intervention students and n = 134 delayed control students). All linear regression models were adjusted for race and were clustered on school to control for intraclass correlation. Results—In adjusted analyses, there was a statistically significant positive intervention effect on the primary outcome of fruit and vegetable servings/day with a mean difference between intervention and control participants of 1.28 servings/day (95% Confidence Interval 1.11, 1.48). There was no intervention effect on beverage intake. There was a statistically significant increase in the odds of goal setting for healthier dietary behaviors among intervention participants relative to controls. Conclusion—An eight-week text-messaging intervention led to increases in self-reported fruit and vegetable intake and improvements in goal setting for healthier dietary behaviors. Due to the use of undergraduate students to deliver the messages, and use of an existing web application, this text-messaging intervention can be sustained in underserved, rural environments. Thus there is potential for significant reach and public health impact to improve dietary patterns.

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Published in Nutrients, v. 11, issue 3, 593, p. 1-12.

© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This work was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grant 30000045856.