The 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act mandates that subsidized school lunches include fruits and vegetables – whether or not kids want them.
And apparently…kids don’t want them, throwing about 70% of the produce away. One analysis suggests that the fruit and vegetable mandates costs an extra $5.4 million per day, meaning that kids are throwing $3.8 million away each day.
So what if kids were offered a monetary reward in exchange for eating their fruits and vegetables? Researchers from BYU and Cornell put together a number of studies to test just this.
One study rewarded students with a nickel, a quarter, and in some cases a raffle ticket that could be exchanged for a larger prize if they ate the produce. Fruit and vegetable consumption rose by 80% and waste declined by 33%.
So will bribing kids to eat their fruits and vegetables catch on mainstream? The sheer administrative nightmare it would entail makes it unlikely in a subsidized school foodservice program.
Instead of plopping a mealy apple on a school-kids’ tray, perhaps a more reasonable and cost-effective approach would be to encourage school foodservice directors to incorporate fruits and vegetables into menu items that kids are actually apt to eat.