Preventive Medicine Reports
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Despite the importance of process evaluation in program evaluations, research has focused primarily on the effectiveness of fruit and vegetables (FVs) distribution interventions on children's consumption, with little attention given to how these interventions achieve their outcomes. Five bibliographic databases (Embase, PubMed, ProQuest, Scopus, and Web of Science Core Collection) were searched in June 2019 for studies of interventions where the main focus was the implementation of distributed FVs to school-aged children as a snack. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) tool was used to appraise the risk of bias within included studies. Data were extracted based on study characteristics and findings. Results identified 24 studies reporting on 11 interventions and 1 policy. The findings of this systematic review indicate that the majority of the studies included limited references to implementation research. Recurring limitations include an absence of an evaluation theoretical framework and the data collection methods used. Also, several factors were identified as informing the success of snack-based FVs distribution programs, including participation of the school community, school characteristics, background knowledge, and parental engagement. Lack of timely FVs delivery, limited funding, inadequate awareness about the program, insufficient teachers’ time, and food waste were identified as challenges to successful programming. Findings indicate that distributing FVs to school-aged children as a snack can increase their consumption, but only with proper implementation. Further evaluative research is required to better inform future implementation of snack-based FV distribution interventions in school settings.