Sensory-Based Learning Intervention Boosted FV Consumption


The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management

It’s old news that today’s children do not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and instead munch on highly processed snacks and meals. Organizations worldwide have rallied to combat this phenomenon through a variety of studies, activities, education initiatives, marketing tactics, and more. The goal of all these initiatives is to not only have children eat more produce, but to create healthy habits that will sustain them into adulthood.

One colorful initiative by social enterprise Rainbow Plate (RP), created a sensory-based food education program called Rainbow Food Heroes. The program incorporates an overarching “rainbow” theme to cultivate engagement by children and connect a message of nutrition to the colors of the rainbow through hands-on activities, storytelling, and songs.

Canadian researchers studied the effects of this education program on kindergarten children at a Canadian urban elementary school. With results published in the Spring 2019 edition of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management. In the review “Evaluation of Sensory-Based Food Education Program on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Kindergarten Children,” researchers measured children’s’ intentions of eating fruits and vegetables, the number of colorful fruits and vegetables selected, and the actual consumption of these foods.

Over the course of four weeks, the 118 youngsters attended two workshops and a school assembly to learn more about the Rainbow Plate concept. The Children were encouraged to create plates that consisted of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, and they were able to explore—touch, examine, smell, lick, bite, taste, etc.—15 different fruits and vegetables at different color stations. Children were also taught a handy rhyme. Following the workshops, the kindergarten children led a school-wide assembly to teach older students the Rainbow Plate concepts.

After attending the interventions, the number of colors represented on children’s lunch plates did increase, and there was an increase of overall consumption of about 50%. The study findings suggest that because the interventions involved a total-sensory experience, it helped improve children’s recognition and retention of concepts. “Thus, the workshops’ engagement of multiple senses... likely made the RP concept more memorable,” states the study. While the study is only a pilot, it paves the way for further research into long-term impacts of sensory-based food education initiatives.

“In the short term, this program appears to have increased children’s intention to eat, as measured by self-served selection, and actual consumption of fruit and vegetables, thus helping kindergarten children make better food choices,” according to the study authors. “Encouraging children to have fun exploring food can expand their food preferences and facilitate positive associations with a variety of healthy foods.

To read the full study, check out the Spring 2019 edition of JCN&M!

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