IPR Policy Brief - Incentives and children's dietary choices: a field experiment in primary schools

Michele Belot, Jonathan James, Patrick Nolen

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There is a growing interest from both academics and policy makers in the use of incentives to change health behaviours; especially of children.

In October 2011, Michèle Belot (University of Edinburgh), Jonathan James (University of Bath) and Patrick Nolen (University of Essex) carried out a randomised controlled field experiment in 31 schools across England.

The aim was to assess the effect of schemes that reward children with stickers, small toys and stationery for choosing fruit and vegetables at lunch time. Two incentive schemes (individual based and competition) were compared to a control group where no incentives were provided.

The effects on choice and consumption were examined over the course of the four week intervention, immediately after the incentives were removed and six months later. In both incentive schemes pupils were given a sticker if they chose a fruit or vegetable at lunch time, or brought one in their packed lunch. Pupils in the individual treatment were given an additional reward on each Friday if they had collected four or more stickers over the week. In the competition scheme pupils were randomly assigned into groups of four, however the groups were only revealed at the end of the week and the pupil with the most stickers was given an additional reward.

Although results differ by age, gender and socio-economic background, the research found that the incentives increased the choice and consumption of fruit and vegetables, particularly among the group who were previously identified as not regularly eating fruit and vegetables.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bath
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


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