This is a guest post by Dr. Susan Rubin
Our kids are suffering from a picky eater epidemic where tater tots and chicken fingers win out over real food. Building a better chicken nugget or baking instead of frying those taters is not going to do what we need done. The bottom line is: we need to increase vegetable consumption.
Well meaning parents and educators often make a mistake when attempting to increase veggie consumption in homes and in schools. They use an intellectual argument: telling kids that veggies are healthy. Let’s face it, what kid really cares if broccoli is a miracle food filled with nutrients? Yeah, we all should eat broccoli. But does nutrition information make us want to? When you were a kid, would you eat certain veggies because they prevent colon cancer? I doubt it!
Its time to change tactics. The food industry knows what tricks work to get kids eating their packaged processed edible food-like substances. We need to take a few tricks out of their playbook.
Forget the philosophical arguments about the virtues of vegetables. Let’s skip the head games and go right to the heart of the matter. Professional marketers use proven strategies to get people to buy their products. They make their products memorable and they make you want to buy them.
Imagine if our kids took a closer look in English class at the strategies that food marketers use. Pop stars selling soda and cool cats selling Cheetos, could be easily integrated into a media literacy segment. Our kids will benefit by learning critical thinking skills to deconstruct the media messages that bombard them daily.
Last summer, I was fortunate to be part of a summer camp that transformed their food from packaged processed fare to real food made from scratch. We significantly increased chickpea consumption through the use of a cool music video on hummus which was created at camp. Food performance art works better than telling kids about the vitamin content of chickpeas. This is the sort of creative strategy we need to implement in schools to increase veggie consumption.