Building Healthy Eating Habits
Why do kids eat chips and cookies instead of fruits and vegetables? Why are low-income children more susceptible to developing poor eating habits?
The Child Food Choice Project seeks to understand what motivates children’s food choices, to promote healthier eating habits, and to understand the extent of the hunger problem among children who lack access to nutritious food. Because children who experience food insecurity are more likely to develop behavioral, emotional, and academic problems, knowledge gained from this project will enable positive impacts on numerous aspects of child life beyond physical health.
The Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation proudly supports the joint venture between the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s leading food bank, and researchers from the University of Chicago. Working together, they launched a large-scale field experiment that measures the impact of incentives and educational messages on children’s decisions about food.
The study covers 1,300 children from 1st through 12th grades and is underway at more than 30 “Kids Cafes”—after-school programs that provide nutritious meals along with enrichment activities. Students in the same “Kids Cafe” program receive the same randomly assigned incentive (e.g., certificates, trophies, school supplies, or small toys) or education component based on what dessert the child voluntarily chooses at various points during the study.
Beyond understanding what influences food choice and eating habits, the researchers also are measuring the scope of the hunger problem by asking children to recall what they ate in the 24-hour period preceding the interview.
Learn more about the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Kids Cafes and other programs for children.
Read “The Behavioralist as Dietician,” an academic paper by John List and Anya Samak.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository
Every year, the Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food to 678,000 adults and children—one in eight Cook County residents—through a network of 650 community-based pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, transitional and elderly housing agencies, and youth programs. Children make up an estimated 37% of clients served. The Greater Chicago Food Depository also develops innovative programs and initiatives that provide men, women, and children with the tools needed to break their individual cycles of poverty.