Previous studies and surveys have shown that although many children love to eat fruit in convenient bite-sized pieces, most school actually serve fruit whole, which could be the cause that children are taking fruits but not eating them.
The common belief that children avoid fruit because of the taste and allure of alternative packaged snacks was investigated in a recent study undertaken by researchers at the USA’s Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.
The researchers decided to get to the bottom of why children were avoiding their fruit and looked at whether increasing the convenience of fruit would lead to increased consumption?
To address this question, researchers conducted a pilot study in eight Primary schools within the same area.
Each school was given a commercial fruit slicer and instructed to use it when students requested apples.
The fruit slicer cut the fruit into six pieces and the process took three to four seconds.
Results from interviews conducted with students during this pilot indicated they dislike eating fruit for two main reasons: for younger students, who might have braces or missing teeth, a large fruit is too inconvenient to eat; for older girls, it is seen as unattractive to eat such a fruit in front of others.
Initial results showed fruit sales increased by an average of 61%, when the fruit was sliced.
To confirm this finding, six middle schools in this same area were added to the study. Three of the schools were given fruit slicers, while the other three continued normal cafeteria operations to act as a control.
Fruit slices were placed in cups in two of the three schools and on a tray in the third school. To assess actual consumption, trained field researchers were assigned to every school to record how much of the apple was wasted by counting the number of slices thrown away by each student.
Results showed that apple sales in schools with fruit slicers increased by 71% compared to control schools. More importantly, researchers found that the percentage of students who ate more than half of their apple increased by 73%, an effect that lasted long after the study was over.
This study shows that making fruit easier to eat encourages more children to select it and to eat more of it. With an initial investment of less than £135, fruit slicers constitute a means for school cafeterias not only to encourage fruit consumption among students but also to prevent food waste.