The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday a major initiative giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology to get kids to eat better at school.
” ‘It’s not nutrition till it’s eaten,’ said Joanne Guthrie, a USDA researcher who announced the new grants. The initiative will include creation of a child nutrition center at Cornell University, which has long led this type of research.”
“Some tricks already judged a success by Cornell researchers: Keep ice cream in freezers without glass display tops so the treats are out of sight. Move salad bars next to the checkout registers, where students linger to pay, giving them more time to ponder a salad. And start a quick line for make-your-own subs and wraps, as Corning East High School in upstate New York did.”
” ‘I eat that every day now,’ instead of the chicken patty sandwiches that used to be a staple, said Shea Beecher, a 17-year-old senior.”
” ‘It’s like our own little Subway,’ said Sterling Smith, a 15-year-old sophomore. (Hint to the school: Freshen up the fruit bowl; the choices are pretty narrow by the time Smith gets to his third-shift lunch period.)”
“Last year, the USDA asked the Institute of Medicine for advice on its school lunch and breakfast programs, which provide free or subsidized meals to more than 31 million schoolchildren each day. The institute recommended more fruit, vegetables and whole grains with limits on fat, salt and calories. But it was clear this wouldn’t help unless kids accepted healthier foods, Guthrie said.”
” ‘We can’t just say we’re going to change the menu and all of our problems will be solved,’ she said.”
“The agency requested proposals from researchers on how to get kids to actually eat the good stuff. Cornell scientists Brian Wansink and David Just will get $1 million to establish the child nutrition center. Fourteen research sites around the country will share the other $1 million.”
” ‘Findings from this emerging field of research — behavioral economics — could lead to significant improvements in the diets of millions of children across America,’ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement…”
So what are some tricks they already know work?
“After studies by Wansink, they renamed some foods in the elementary schools — ‘X-ray vision carrots’ and ‘lean, mean green beans’ — and watched consumption rise. Cafeteria workers also got more involved, asking, ‘Would you rather have green beans or carrots today?’ instead of waiting for a kid to request them.”
“And just asking, ‘Do you want a salad with that?’ on pizza day at one high school raised salad consumption 30 percent, Wansink said.”
The last part seems like the whole supersize strategy – if they ask you, you will do it.
So what do you think:
Should school be psyching out to kids to eat better food?
Do you have any tricks you use at home to get your kids to eat better?
Should they be using more of the Sneaky Chef strategies and sneaking better nutrition into the hamburgers and chicken nuggets?
Is this research worth $2 million of our government’s money to explore?
(I have a corollary blog about the government and school lunches written by a guest blogger that I will run tomorrow morning. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with this one.)