Utah elementary schools participating in BYU study


Provo-  One BYU professor is researching how to get more fruits and veggies in kids’ tummies and less in the trash.

The study is called The Veggie Project, and 36 schools throughout Utah are now involved. Basically, the whole idea is to figure out whether short-term incentives can lead to long-term eating habits.

BYU Professor Joe Price is the man leading the study. He has been given a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University to do the project and buy prizes for healthy eaters.

Research assistants, PTA members, and even teachers log how well students at these elementary schools eat their fruits and vegetables for about 10 days to get good baseline data. Then, for either 3 or 5 weeks, children have the opportunity to earn tokens by eating fruits and veggies during lunchtime. They save up their tokens for Fridays, when the kids can redeem their tokens for prizes.

“Elementary kids don’t necessarily know they like fruits and vegetables. So we give them the incentives so that they try it and they discover, ‘Oh this is actually really good,” Angela Graves, a project manager said.

To be as accurate as possible, researchers designed an app that allows a volunteer to quickly indicate whether each child is a boy or a girl, what their main course is, and how much of their fruits and vegetables they eat each day. Before the children dump their trays, they show the volunteer, who then submits the child’s daily data to be analyzed.

After all the prizes and incentives are gone, the students’ fruit/vegetable consumption is tracked for 3 more weeks to see whether or not the incentives really made a lasting difference. But according to parent volunteers, the results are obvious.

“At our school, the consumption of fruits and vegetables went up to 90 percent. It was amazing,” Melanie Ewing, a PTA member at Alpine Elementary School said.

Leaders of the project say that this study is more important now than ever because federal laws are requiring school districts to give students more fruits and vegetables, but that does not necessarily mean they are eating them. In fact, a nationwide average of $4.9 million in fruits and veggies is being wasted every day, according to project manager Sara Wolz.

On average, fruit and veggie consumption in participating schools has increased by 30 to 40 percent. This measurement is made after all the prizes are gone.

For more information on The Veggie Project, or to see if your school could be a participant, visit the following link: https://veggieproject.byu.edu/Pages/index.aspx

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