Narrative and public school cafeterias

(via EurekAlert) A study of students in public schools has shown that re-naming the vegetables increases the amount of vegetables the students eat.  The names were corny and ridiculous (they called green beans "Silly Dilly Green Beans") but the change is apparently effective.

In the first study, plain old carrots were transformed into “X-ray Vision Carrots.” 147 students ranging from 8-11 years old from 5 ethnically and economically diverse schools participated in tasting the cool new foods. Lunchroom menus were the same except that carrots were added on three consecutive days. On the first and last days, carrots remained unnamed. On the second day, the carrots were served as either “X-ray Vision Carrots” or “Food of the Day.” Although the amount of carrots selected was not impacted by the 3 different naming conditions the amount eaten was very much so. By changing the carrots to “X-ray vision carrots”, a whopping 66% were eaten, far greater than the 32% eaten when labeled “Food of the Day” and 35% eaten when unnamed.

The write up of the study points out that this is a cost-effective way to improve the health of students -- just re-name the vegetables, and diets get better.  I'm totally in favor of this kind of study, but it seems to me like this principle should be obvious by now.

I find it frustrating how frequently issues like this, issues of poor health or unperformance, are treated as insoluble or as too expensive to deal with, when more often than not a narrative solution, like renaming something or recontextualizing something, can help solve the problem for free.