More young children take vegetables in school cafeterias when they are advertised with vinyl banners depicting vegetable superhero characters, more young children take vegetables from the salad bar.
The researchers, from The Ohio State University, tested a marketing program in 10 elementary schools, each randomly assigned to follow one of four approaches for six weeks.
Schools either continued lunchroom service as normal, added a vinyl banner with vegetable characters around the base of the salad bar, added TVs playing health education segments featuring the same characters, or added both banners and TV spots.
Before and during the study, 6 to 8 percent of kids at schools without the marketing programs took vegetables from the salad bar.
In schools with the TV segments, the proportion of kids who took veggies from the salad bar rose from 14 percent to 19 percent. With the banners, veggie selection increased from 13 percent to 24 percent.
TV and superhero banners most effective
At schools where both TV and banners were used, the proportion of kids taking vegetables went from 10 percent to 35 percent.
Girls responded positively to both TV spots and banners, but boys only increased their veggie selection when there were banners in place.
There was no measure of actual quantity of vegetable intake, however.
Banners around the base of a salad bar were easy to install, and were more effective since they were placed right at the point of selection.
These findings show that if you raise awareness and bring attention to healthy foods that kids will actually take them.
Characters made the food seem novel and appealing, however it’s not known if the effect would last.
Source: Pediatrics, online July 5, 2016.
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