Cartoon characters can encourage kids to eat more veg

Conventional marketing techniques, such as those used by fast food and confectionery companies, can be utilized to encourage children to eat more vegetables. Cornell researchers found that 239% more students lined up at the salad bar when it was decorated using colorful banners with vegetable cartoon-characters and fun, nutrition education videos.

In this new study published in Pediatrics, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Center) researchers explore two marketing strategies to encourage more kids to take vegetables as part of their school lunch: 1) vinyl wrap-around banners that fasten to the lower portion of salad bars depicting vegetable cartoon characters and 2) nutrition education videos narrated by the same characters.

For this six week study conducted at 10 elementary schools in a large urban school district, researchers used Founders Farm trademarked Super Sprowtz vinyl wrap-around banners, flat screen televisions, and video segments with the veggie cartoon characters explaining the benefits of healthy food choices. The characters are personified vegetables including broccoli, carrots, spinach, peas and many others.

The researchers observed how many students served themselves from the salad bar before and after adding the banners and videos to the salad bar. In schools where just the banner was used, 90% more students visited the salad bar. In schools where videos were shown on TV monitors in addition to the banners, 239% more students selected vegetables from the salad bar.

These findings demonstrate how conventional marketing tools such as banners and videos can increase how many kids take vegetables - leading to more nutritious, balanced meals and ultimately to healthier students. "Vegetable marketing in schools is a low cost win-win solution for food providers, school meal programs, and students," says lead author Drew Hanks, PhD, now a professor at Ohio State University. He explains, "The results of this study highlight how the persuasiveness of marketing media can be leveraged in a positive way by encouraging children to make more nutritious choices."


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