Two studies on motivating children to eat better made the news last month, and they offer contrasting approaches.
One is a good idea, and one is bad.
In the good one, school kids were given a nutrition report card, which showed their parents what they ate at school.
In the limited study, the kids chose healthier food, probably because they knew someone cared and was holding them accountable.
We suspect this would work with adults as well, since healthy eating is more a case of choosing wisely, rather than not knowing what to choose.
The report cards caused more in-home discussions about food and nutrition, according to parents who participated, and the program cost nothing.
In the other study, school kids were paid to eat fruits and vegetables, which improved their diets and reduced waste.
On average, a monetary incentive increased the share of children eating at least one serving of produce from 33% to 61%, and the amount of produce thrown away was reduced by 33%.
When the study — and payments — ended, consumption returned to the previous levels.
We don’t believe bribes change behaviors, and this study bears that out.
It’s also problematic to have taxpayers provide a free lunch to needy kids, but then also feel compelled to pay them to eat it.
Kids won’t fall in love with eating fresh produce if they’re only in it for the money.
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