There’s a Simple, Effective Way to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables—Pay Them

Kids throw away around $3.8 million of uneaten veggies and fruits from school lunches each year

Kid with apple
Brigham Young University

Bribery is an effective way to get not only adults to do what you want, but kids, too. In new research, scientists paid kids to finish their fruit and vegetables at lunch. And the method seemed to work. As an added upside, it doesn't take much to charm a child into submission: just a nickel, a quarter or, in this case,  a raffle ticket for a larger (kid-sized) prize.

When the researchers introduced the bribery system over the course of one week at 18 elementary schools, they saw an 80 percent spike in the amount of fruits and veggies kids willingly consumed. On the flip side, waste decreased by about 30 percent. "We feel a sense of dirtiness about a bribe," the authors say in a statement. "But rewards can be really powerful in the activity creates a new skill or changes preferences."

The authors point out that kids throw away around $3.8 million of uneaten veggies and fruits from school lunches each year. That means about 70 percent of the money currently spent ($5.4 million) on introducing healthy foods into school lunches goes to waste. 

The long term goal, of course, is to eventually wean kids off such a hypothetical reward system, leaving them with a life-long habit of eating the healthy items on their plate. In this case, however, after the week's experiment was up kids went straight back to chucking their apples and salads into the garbage.

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