Researchers Pay Kids to Eat their Fruits and Veggies

Due to American children largely refusing to eat the fruit and vegetable portions of their school lunches—an estimated 70 percent are thrown away—some researchers have resorted to bribery in an attempt to solve the problem.

A new federal law passed in an effort to boost the nutrition of our nation’s children requires schools to serve fruits and vegetables on every school lunch tray. However, analysis of the results so far show that about 3.8 million dollars worth of produce is tossed in the trash every day.

Economics professor Joe Price from Brigham Young University (BYU) and Cornell University professor David Just performed a study that consisted of week-long experiments at 15 different schools to see if offering rewards to students would prompt them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Some of the schools offered the students raffle tickets to be used towards larger prizes, while others offered nickels or quarters and other small monetary rewards for fruit and veggie portions eaten. Results showed that the method was a success: 80 percent more fruits and vegetables were eaten by the participating kids, and 33 percent less food was wasted.

After the reward incentives were removed however, the children quickly went back to eating as much—or as little—fruits and vegetables as they had before the study began. Price and Just are studying whether rewards implemented over a longer period of time—three to five weeks—may inspire lasting effects.

Price stated: “Parents are often misguided about incentives. We feel a sense of dirtiness about a bribe. But rewards can be really powerful if the activity creates a new skill or changes preferences.”

Even though this method was found successful, it could end up teaching kids that bribery is the way to get results, setting them up for negative patterns throughout their lives. Instead of offering money or presents for participating in healthy activities, parents and educators should be finding fun and delicious ways to present fruits and vegetables to kids—which is quite easy to do with a little creativity.

For starters, school lunches are generally not the pinnacle of health, and the fruits and vegetable dishes served are likely bland and unappetizing. If parents pack healthy lunches for their kids, lunches containing a delicious, homemade fruit salad, or sweet potato wedges, for example, kids would be more likely to eat them.

Some kids are notably picky eaters who have a hard time eating their greens and other vegetables. In this case, smoothies and juices are great solutions. You can blend or juice your kids’ favorite fruits, and add some spinach, kale or beets (to name only a few nutrition-packed choices). Kids will get their nutrients, and all they will taste is a sweet and delicious smoothie or juice. Both are easy to pour into a thermos and send to school with your child.

appleAnother idea is trying out various fruit- and veggie-filled recipes at home, such as salads, soups, and stir-fry combinations, and seeing which ones your child likes the best. Pack your favorites in your child’s lunchbox, and they will look forward to lunchtime. As far as the school lunch program, administrators could also incorporate some of these ideas to make fruits and vegetables more appetizing for kids to eat.

If kids grow up learning that fruits and veggies are delicious and can be eaten in a number of exciting ways, they will see eating them as a reward in itself, and will not need additional convincing.

-The Alternative Dialy


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