Cash Prizes May Get Kids to Eat Fruits and Veggies
Kids may be more inclined to keep reaching for fruits and vegetables if a cash incentive is involved, suggests a new study from Utah State University.
Carrying out their study in six U.S. schools, the researchers awarded three groups of children for eating fruits and vegetables with one of three prizes: cash, praise or nothing at all. A total of 882 students were given cash prizes, 640 students were praised for trying the foods, and 770 kids were given no recognition for their food choices. They found that compared to the other groups, fruit and veggie consumption was highest in the group that was given a cash prize.
For the Utah study, the research team photographed students’ lunch trays before and after the meal for three days, however the amount of vegetables served was never specified. Afterwards, tudent (including those with home-brought lunches) were given a serving of the same types of fruits and vegetables - a quarter cup for younger students and one-third cup for older students. Before and after pictures were also taken. Lastly, the researchers assigned a hand-stamp reward system that would be used by teachers to give out prizes and track progress for the additional servings.
Out of those who earned four stamps for accepting and eating the fruits and veggies, some were given cash, and others were praised. A control group was given neither despite earning the same amount of stamps. Children who received cash prizes were shown to increase fruit and veggie intake by 0.32 cups, and those who received praise ate 0.21 cups more compared to the control. Even six months after the reward system stopped, the eating habits continued.
A psychology professor from the university suggests cash incentives might push students to move past fears and try new foods. Repeated exposure to the new food, the professor added, has also been shown to increase the chance a person will end up developing an acquired taste, and liking it. Nevertheless, experts advise people continue to work to build healthy habits in children both in and out of school.
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