I assert that in all of us is a part that resists change. We all have our comfort zones and habits that give us the pay off of being who we are. That’s why I had to take a closer look at what actually caused high school students to spend 18% more on healthy food options. It turns out the answer was to create a rewarding experience for all – the students, the chefs, teachers, parents and public health agencies all worrying about how to reverse the trend of our children living shorter lives than their parents.

Most school districts are grappling with adding healthy options. Not only is  getting the taste and presentation down, the jackpot is getting kids to take and actually eat the food.  Kids who think milk comes from a store are not the early adopters for the salad bar or other healthy options.

Instead of fighting the natural resistance to change and switching out existing food lines for healthier fare,  they capitalized on is the fact that as most of us are time starved, teenagers are especially so. They simply insist on having their own lives after school hours!

In a stroke of brilliance the school decided to add another “convenience” line for the quick grab and go eaters.  The price for convenience was all healthy selections.

In addition, as sales for healthier fare rose 18%, sales of less healthy choices fell  28%. Healthier foods’ share of total consumption increased from 33% to 36%. That means that the convenience line was either very busy, or they started adding healthier foods to existing cafeteria lines. Plus, with enough survivors giving the “Mikey Likes It” seal of social approval, good and good for you plus convenient shows we’re on to something.

The next step should be to get photos of real food on the trays and up on the walls at schools. It’s been a reliable strategy for survival for parents to teach their offspring what to eat.  We missed a couple of generations with that critical bit and we’re seeing the results – beige food and obesity along with children who can’t name a vegetable.

We can fix this. It’s low hanging fruit, if you’ll pardon the pun.

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