Title

The FIT Game: A Low-Cost Approach to Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Elementary School

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

4-10-2014

Faculty Mentor

Gregory Madden, Heidi Wengreen

Abstract

Despite the known health benefits of doing so, most US children do not consume enough fruits and vegetables (FV). School-based interventions can be effective in increasing FV consumption, but the most effective of these require that schools allocate their time, effort, and financial resources to implementing the program: expenditures that schools may be reluctant to provide in climates of academic accountability and economic austerity. The present demonstration project used a behaviorally based gamification approach to develop an intervention designed to increase FV consumption while minimizing material and labor costs to the school. During the intervention, the school (N=180 students in grades K-8) played a cooperative game in which school-level goals were met by consuming higher-than-normal amounts of either fruit or vegetables (alternating-treatments experimental design). School-level consumption was quantified using a weight-based waste measure in the cafeteria. Over a period of 13 school days, fruit consumption increased by 66% and vegetable consumption by 44% above baseline levels. Use of an alternating-treatment time-series design with differential levels of FV consumption on days when fruit or vegetable was targeted for improvement supported the role of the intervention in these overall consumption increases. In post-intervention surveys, teachers rated the intervention as practical in the classroom and enjoyed by their students. Parent surveys revealed that children were more willing to try new FV at home and increased their consumption of FV following the intervention. These findings suggest that a behaviorally based gamification approach may prove practically useful in addressing concerns about poor dietary decision making by children in schools.

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