April 19, 2013
Bite-Sized Fruit More Appealing To Kids Than Whole Servings
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Kids love to eat fruit in ready-to-eat bite-sized pieces, yet studies show that in most school settings, the fruit is served whole. This could be the reason that school children are taking fruits, but not eating them. Common wisdom, however, is that children avoid fruit in favor of the taste and allure of pre-packaged snacks.
A team of researchers from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab wanted to understand why the children were avoiding their fruit; they wondered if increasing the convenience of fruit would increase consumption.
The researchers, Brian Wansink, David Just, Andrew Hanks, and Laura Smith, conducted a pilot study in eight elementary schools within the same district to find out. Each of the schools received a commercial fruit slicer with instructions how to use it when students requested apples. The process, which took three to four seconds, sliced the fruit into six pieces.
The researchers interviewed students during the pilot program and discovered two main reasons that the children disliked eating fruit: for younger students, who might have braces or missing teeth, a large fruit is too inconvenient to eat; for older girls, it is unattractive-looking to eat such a fruit in front of others. According to the initial results of the study, fruit sales increased 61 percent when the fruit was sliced.
The research team expanded the program to verify the results by adding six middle schools. Three of the new schools were given fruit slicers, while three continued normal cafeteria operations as a control. In two of the three schools slicing fruit, the fruit was placed into cups. In the third school, it was placed on a tray. Trained field researchers were assigned to each school to assess actual consumption by recording the number of slices thrown away by each student.
Apple sales in schools with fruit slicers increased by 71 percent compared with the control schools. Researchers also found that the percentage of students who ate more than half their fruit increased by 73 percent. This effect lasted long after the study was over.
The study confirms that making fruit easier to eat encourages more children to choose it and consume more of it. The fruit slicers, with an initial investment of just $200, constitute a means for school cafeterias to encourage fruit consumption and prevent food waste.