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Doubt over cash for vegies plan

Monday, 17th March, 2014

Five-year-old Brieya Rhee loves her broccoli and beans more so than meat. Five-year-old Brieya Rhee loves her broccoli and beans more so than meat.

By Emily Roberts

A plan to pay children to eat fruit and vegetables has been pitched to the NSW Premier, but a local dietitian is doubtful it would work.

Last year in the US state of Utah a study by two economics professors paid primary school children 25c a day to eat a serve of fruit and vegetables and doubled consumption from 40-80 per cent.

According to the news.com.au website, a visiting US Professor Kevin Volpp has met with government officials to pitch the plan as part of the solution to childhood obesity after a trial overseas found it doubled healthy eating.

One in four Australian children are overweight or obese and fewer than one in four eat the required two to four serves of vegetables a day.

Community Dietitian at the Broken Hill Health Service, Heidi Drenkhahn said the idea might not work the same in Australia.

“As dietitians we certainly support the idea of encouraging children to eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables,” she said.

“This particular initiative may have worked well in the American school system where school cafeterias provide lunch to a large majority of students, however in Australian schools most of the food children eat during their school day is provided from home. 

“For this reason in Australia increasing children’s intake of vegetables and fruit relies on parents packing them in the lunch box.”

Ms Drenkhahn said there are a number of initiatives which encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables.

“The Cancer Council has a program called ‘Eat it to Beat it’ which provides information and resources to parents of young children to help with providing healthy lunch box foods for their children,” she said.

“This program has been offered to all local primary Schools and sessions have already started in some schools for Term 1.

“As well as this many local schools have implemented the Crunch & Sip program which makes vegetable and fruit consumption part of the routine of each school day.

Ms Drenkhahn said these initiatives had seen an increase in daily vegetable consumption.

“Thanks in part to initiatives such as these the 2012 NSW Population Health Survey showed there has been a significant increase in the proportion of children 2-15 years who consumed the recommended daily vegetable intake between 2001 (13 per cent) and 2012 (43.4 per cent).

“Fruit intakes also increased from 70 per cent to 73.2 per cent in the same period.

“It is important children develop an understanding of why a food is good for them and have a variety of different foods offered to them on a regular basis to instil life-long healthy habits rather than habits dependent on monetary rewards.”

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