Nutrition and students is a huge topic in schools- what with obesity rates climbing and the health problems associated with that. As a result, Massachusetts has a law on the books that requires students buying lunch at schools to take a piece of fruit. It isn’t mandated that they eat the fruit, but it has to be on their tray when they check out.
Except much (most?) of the fruit ends up in the trash barrel five feet away. Not eaten, not handed back- tossed. It seems a waste. And in thinking about what makes people want to eat fruit, three things came to mind:
1. Availability. Fruit that’s easy to get will get eaten more than… well, this is pretty obvious.
2. Quality. Fruit that looks/smells/feels/tastes good is nearly impossible to resist. In parties with little kids, someone always brings a platter of cookies. Someone else brings a platter of fruit. The fruit is always gone first.
3. Cost. If the fruit costs less than other options, it’ll get eaten more. Again, obvious.
So with those three givens, I propose the following move: the school fruit bowl.
We’re already buying the fruit- so that part of the cost is done. I realize we recover some of that cost when we sell the student lunch, but still. We should be able to swing this. Anyway, it’s simple. Park a big bowl (or bowls) around the school with free fresh fruit in them. Free satisfies #3, and bowls around common areas satisfies #2. As far as quality goes, I’d argue that buying the in-season fruit would help keep costs down and quality up.
Think of the problems this solves: any hungry kid, at whatever time of the day, could easily pick up a readily available free piece of fruit to eat. It’s healthy, yes, but it also provides an elegant solution to both the health problem as well as the I-didn’t-eat-breakfast-for-whatever-reason problem.
But I think the advantages run deeper- just like the bowl of fruit on the kitchen table at home helps provide a central point for the family, I think a bowl of fruit in a school can provide a similar function. It can provide a better sense of community. It can provide a location for accidental interactions- with both students and staff- that might not otherwise meet. Those chance encounters provide all sorts of fertile ground for staff and student interactions- and those interactions can lead to some meaningful connections and relationships.
And for the cost of some fruit. Seems like a bargain.