School Program Functions as Viral Marketing Campaign for Fruit and Vegetables
Every parent’s shopping-trip fantasy: “Mom, can you buy apples? I don’t want rainbow Dunk-a-roos this time.”
It’s far from reality for most families. But one program in BC schools is working to change that. The BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program delivers a free pile of fruit or vegetables to participating schools, two days a fortnight.
Advocates of the program feel that a free apple at recess once in a while will translate into long-term health benefits for children. Is it ludicrous optimism or fruit-and-vegetable marketing genius?
On a recent Tuesday, a teacher entered his classroom with a flat of organic apples, wet with droplets from a recent rinse in the staff room sink. A flurry of hands reached greedily for the fruit before the kids dashed out the door for recess.
Outside on the playground, some kids held their apples preciously with two hands, while others nonchalantly raised them to open mouths by the stems. The pervasiveness of the fruit on the playground seemed to be the result of some sort of viral marketing campaign that would be the envy of any sugary-snack manufacturer. Everyone ate their apple because everyone else was eating an apple. From here, kids eschewing vanilla-frosted treats on the next shopping trip might be a bit of a stretch, but the recess scene left room for hope.
Even the adults at school can benefit from such “marketing” of nutritional snacks . Although teachers as a group tend to be relatively healthy eaters, there is still a fair contingent who feed on Easy Mac or canned ravioli around the staff room tables. Those who are not in the habit of bringing fruit or vegetables to work may be better off for having these snacks occasionally placed in front of them. Moreover, the ever-changing variety of produce can open recipients’ minds to new possibilities. After the nutritional program brought skinny mini-cucumbers to school, I for one was coaxed out of my oranges-and-apples rut for the next few weeks when selecting my produce at the grocery store.
Five large bags of cut-up carrots were waiting on the staff room table when I arrived at one lower-mainland elementary school this past Thursday. They were brought into the classrooms at recess and doled out to the kids by the handful. But after all the children had had their fill, there were mounds of carrots left over.
The school principal looked at the bags with a smirk. “That’s a lot of carrots,” he remarked. “Anyone for carrot ginger soup tomorrow?" Enthusiastic assent was heard from all corners of the staff room. He loaded up a big container to take home.