Pay'em to Eat Their Veggies
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it turns out that if you want kids to make healthy choices, you’re gonna have to sweeten the deal.
By Sanjena Sathian
What didja learn at school today? Forget that. What did you eat at school today?
For kids who are snarfing burgers, pizza and Cheese Whiz three or four times a day — and trashing or just not getting their vegetables — lunchtime might be the sweet spot (er, sugar-free sweet spot) for making healthy choices stick. That’s what was on the mind of researchers at Brigham Young University who decided to test the following theory: If the fatty and sweet stuff is winning out, maybe the good-for-you stuff just needs a little assist. In the form of cash.
But wait a minute, they’re just kids. There’s no need to go dropping benjamins. One measly nickel will do the trick.
Percentage of American kids who were willing to eat their vegetables when offered even a small financial reward.
That’s a huge deal for school lunch programs that are throwing money at balancing their grease-heavy menus — and for students from families where fruits and veggies don’t have a prominent place at the dinner table (which is most of them, given that only 32 percent of Americans come close to eating their recommended daily servings). And because in the U.S. and U.K. alike, around a third of all food gets wasted. So instead of wasting money on vegetables that school kids frown on — or having all that uneaten veg end up as waste — how about rerouting some of that money, as the researchers did in Utah, to reward kids for doing the right (and healthy) thing?
But maybe this is just new proof for an old idea. After all, it’s been the theory behind plenty of conditional aid and global welfare programs (like Brazil and the WHO’s plan). And the bottom line? It’s never too early to teach kids a vital life lesson: Money might not buy you happiness, or love, but it can — and usually does — turn a no into a yes.