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November 15, 2017

There could be an App for that apple

“Would you like to win a free iPad?” the pretty girl in the Auxiliary Services T-shirt said as I walked into Franklin Dinning Commons two Saturdays ago.           

I’m going to be honest. I’m a man and I do pay attention when pretty girls offer me free high-end consumer electronics. Right now, nothing is more high-end than the iPad, unless you can cough up the dough to afford a real jet-pack. At $86,000, it’s an awful lot of coughing, especially since it runs on premium gasoline at the rate of 10 gallons per hour – and its tank only holds five. Also, buying one will probably make your insurance higher.           

What it amounts to is that the iPad, while comparatively cheap at $400 and pretty darn desirable, is still not an impulse purchase for most of us, so if I can get one for free I’ll jump at it. As it turns out, there was a catch: I have to go to Canada and bring a parcel back across the border without customs discovering it.

No, but the catch is something of equal challenge – the Director’s Challenge.           

Ken Toong, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, had a goal: to double consumption of fruits and vegetables at the University of Massachusetts. This year, he had a plan. In the Director’s Challenge, students keep track of how many fruits and vegetables they eat over two different weeks with the goal of doubling the amount for the second week. The people who manage it get entered to win the iPad.           

“We want to challenge students to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Toong said. He said that people should be getting nine portions a day, but most people only get three or four.           

Apple’s latest toy is a marvelous incentive and there is nothing like an incentive to motivate people. I know that I barely signed up before I was taking a helping of roasted vegetables and a portion of rice to go along with my generic meat-like product with salt and grease.            

And instead of a second helping of generic meat-like product, I had a very nice salad instead, although it wasn’t as good as possible because the salad bar had run out of lettuce by that point.           

I will admit that I have had trouble losing weight and eating well in recent years. I am quite a rotund journalist and even if that does put me in illustrious company, it’s still not very healthy. An incentive, especially something I really want like an iPad, was a great idea to encourage me, at least, to start eating fruits and vegetables.           

People have an inertial quality to them, we go on doing what we do—even if we know we need to change – and we’ll keep on doing it until we die or something external happens. Like an iPad contest. Or a Zumba center. Some people are definitely self-starters. I like to think of them as the kind of people who wake up at 5  a.m., don’t need coffee, write bestselling self-help books and advertise fitness machines or mutant exercises like those “TaeBo” videos or infomercials. Naturally untrustworthy people, in other words.           

When I talked to Toong last Thursday, he said that 788 students had registered for the Director’s Challenge, so my odds of winning an iPad are one-in-788. In proportional terms the concept really hasn’t attracted a lot of people. Since there are about 21,000 undergraduate students on campus, it’s a bit surprising that so few students are participating.           

Promoting fruits and vegetables isn’t exactly a new thing for Dining Services, either. The events every year where they promote apple or blueberries or even asparagus and squash have been part of this drive to increase consumption. Toong said that before they began the promotions, Dining Services spent $1.9 million on produce and now they’re spending $2.75 million.           

I wonder if promoting fruits and vegetables is really worth it. Clearly they’re not popular even after all the ad campaigns through all the years. Partially I think it’s because most of the vegetables we’re exposed to in our formative years don’t taste good at all. I mean canned peas? Lima beans taste like sour and soggy cardboard.           

A well-made eggplant parmesan can make a lifelong carnivore consider vegetarianism. Roasted carrots with some spices, corn on the cob and rice are all wonderful vegetables. But as side dishes, not entire meals. A chicken wrap from Sunset Strips or a Pita usually has lettuce, tomato and good stuff like that.           

We get plenty of fruits and vegetables – just not in the form we did when we were four. That still doesn’t mean that ketchup is a vegetable, but we’re not exactly being deficient in the good food department.           

I’m still going for that iPad, though.           

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

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