Debbie Ritter, F-M's food services manager, is happy that students have decided on their own to buy 650-some bags of carrots so far, but she expects the buttons to be pushed less and less often as the novelty completely vanishes. That left me wondering whether it is even possible to turn a healthy novelty into a healthy habit in a high-school setting. Since my graduation, F-M has added low-fat cheese, whole-wheat bread, and many other good-for-you items to its cafeteria menu. But when a baby carrot machine sits a few feet from the snack shop that doles out nachos and soft pretzels and snuggles up to a machine dispensing chips and cookies after school, can we kids be expected to opt for the veggies?
"It's an unfair test," says Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. "We're biologically programmed to like foods with sugar, salt, and fat. To expect carrots to compete with something that is high in those three ingredients is unreasonable."
The only real solution, Schwartz says, is to remove junk food from schools, period. I don't agree, but it's clear even to me that a $25 million campaign to promote carrots, up against tasty junk backed by a marketing juggernaut of $1.6 billion a year, is destined to fail. Is Schwartz's solution the only one?