There is certainly a movement these days to promote healthy eating for kids and summer camps for children are right there with it. In recent years a salad bar has been as much a fixture in a summer camp dining hall as Melmac dinnerware. However, as a general rule, most children aren’t fond of veggies and making the healthy stuff available doesn’t necessary mean that campers will happily indulge. At Kettleby Valley, a summer camp for children in Ontario, they have found a simple yet effective way to motivate their campers to fill up on salad and vegetables.
Each week, the camp awards a ‘GRUB’ button to the cabin group who eats the most veggies and salad. “We’ve always offered healthy options for lunch,” says Peter Truman, the Director of the camp. “Once we started awarding the button, we saw a real difference in the quantity of veggies they’d eat.” In many cases, campers would come up for thirds and fourths of salad and vegetables.
In addition to filling up on healthy veggies, campers were also given points for reducing food waste. The waste was reduced from a full garbage can each meal to a small shopping bag. ‘Take what you wanted, but eat what you take’ was the rule. “Campers would even eat their crusts,” Peter adds with a laugh. “And we serve brown bread.”
If a summer camp can encourage children to eat healthier by simply awarding a button, perhaps the same strategy would work at home. Peter warns, however that there is a difference between rewards and awards. “Rewards are used to modify behaviour, like training a dog. Awards are things that children can strive for and earn.”