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Nebraska Symposium on Motivation




Springer Nature

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Developing a daily habit of consuming fruits and vegetables (FV) in children is an important public-health goal. Eating habits acquired in childhood are predictive of adolescent and adult dietary patterns. Thus, healthy eating patterns developed early in life can protect the individual against a number of costly health deficits and may reduce the prevalence of obesity. At present, children in the United States (US) under-consume FV despite having access to them through the National School Lunch Program. Because access is an obstacle to developing healthy eating habits, particularly in low-income households, targeting children’s FV consumption in schools has the advantage of near-universal FV availability among more than 30 million US children. This chapter reviews economic and behavioral-economic approaches to increasing FV consumption in schools. Inclusion criteria include objective measurement of FV consumption (e.g., plate waste measures) and minimal demand characteristics. Simple but effective interventions include (a) increasing the variety of vegetables served, (b) serving sliced instead of whole fruits, (c) scheduling lunch after recess, and (d) giving children at least 25 minutes to eat. Improving the taste of FV and short-term incentivizing consumption of gradually increasing amounts can produce large increases in consumption of these foods. Low-cost game-based incentive program may increase the practicality of the latter strategy.