Over the past few years, federal guidelines have required schools to provide healthier lunches in an effort to help combat such problems as childhood obesity, which is exactly what they’re doing. A study comparing more than 750 school meals to 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students found that the school meals were healthier. Packed lunches had more fat, and included more desserts and sugary drinks than the school lunches did. In other words, the federal guidelines are a step in the right direction.
The trouble is that kids aren’t eating them. In fact, they’re throwing them away. A University of Vermont study found that kids put more fruits and vegetables on their trays — as required by the 2012 USDA mandates — but consumed fewer of them. Researchers found that there was a 56% increase in the amount of food wasted.
Now, high schools have found a way to lure students into eating better — by getting food trucks on campus.
“Food trucks are a great addition to school food service — both from a way to engage the older kids and a way to engage the community,” Ann Cooper, the director of food services at Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District, told The Atlantic. “It’s part of a great overall marketing strategy.”
Using food trucks to deliver lunches to kids is a great way to put healthy meals in a more positive light. In one study, more than 80% of participants described food trucks using words like: “exciting,” “fun,” “unique,” and “different.”
Last year, Boulder Valley became one of the first districts in the country to use a food truck to serve school lunches during the academic year. The vehicle, which was funded by a $75,000 grant from Whole Foods Market, serves the same food as the cafeteria at identical prices. The only real difference Cooper said is that the students find the truck more appealing.
“It’s meeting the kids where they are to provide a cool environment,” Cooper says. “There’s a different vibe to it, with music playing.”
Perhaps the way to get kids to eat is not to force healthier options onto their plates, but to rather make the healthier options appear more attractive. As they say, you eat with your eyes first.