The Untold Story of Kids Eating Healthy

The Lempert Report
February 16, 2016

Does this new study have an answer for Food Deserts?

We have heard for years that the key to getting our kids to eat healthier is to have them try healthy foods like vegetables between eight and 15 times, and voila, kids then start to like broccoli, kale, collard greens and even Brussels sprouts. But until now, no one put two and two together and made the astute observation that this works, but only for families that are above average income – the reason is simple: most middle class or lower income families just can not afford to waste the food that isn’t eating that first seven to 14 times. Or the cost of the food to replace what hasn’t been eaten! 

A new study conducted among 75 families in the Boston area by Caitlin Daniel, a doctoral student at Harvard, and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that: 
•Low-income parents buy foods that their children like to avoid food waste.
•High-income parents have more money to give children foods they may reject.
•Parents' tastes attenuate their reluctance to expose children to new foods.
•Low-income parents' risk aversion may affect children's taste formation.
•Accounting for waste may yield better estimates of children's diet cost.
While many continue to argue how making health food available in so-called food deserts is the answer, it seems to me that this study has really pinpointed the real problem – its not about availability or affordability – but the affordability of multiple attempts that needs to be solved.  The research pointed out that the parents wanted to serve “real food, but out of necessity resorting to more dependable, easier-to-love foods such as frozen burritos or Hot Pockets”. It doesn’t make a difference when its in the home or at school, the reality is that to introduce new foods to our future generation takes time, patience and yes – money.  The long term implication, according to Daniel is clear: “ the tastes that children come to enjoy are likely to stick around into adolescence and beyond”.