I know we take wellness seriously at CU Denver and in Colorado, so I don’t mean to be flippant here. Figuring out how to incentivize healthy behaviors is just not as easy as it might appear, as this recent study, and Kevin Drum’s discussion here suggest.
This study examined a new Department of Agriculture requirement for free/reduced lunch price K12 school kids to select fruits and vegetables. As mandated, students did indeed put more veggies on their plates, but, perhaps not surprisingly, they didn’t actually eat more fruits/vegetables. They threw away more food, and they actually ate a little less healthy (a bit of oppositional behavior) compared to baseline.
Sometimes, even often on the floor of Congress, social science research is accused of being silly or obvious. A mentor of mine, prone to making sweeping statements, used to say: “social science research either confirms the obvious, or it is wrong.“ This notion is not very inspiring for researchers, if often accurate, though I do like to believe there is a category of counter-intuitive, or at least non-obvious, findings that are important. On the plus side, that mentor also liked to say: “we have learned one important thing over the past 50 years – smoking cigarettes is pretty bad for you.”