The Norwegian MORE /MER Campaign
The Norwegian “MER”, “More” in English moves away from recommending eating a specific amount of fruits and vegetables, but emphasizes eating more. “MER” is more than a traditional campaign; it is a campaign aimed at increasing the availability of fruit and vegetables at all meals in daycare, at all concession stands at sports events for kids and in all company cantinas. The MER Campaign influences people to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in meal occasions. The key goal is increased consumption through increased availability for kids, teens and their parents.
75% of all kids up to six years old spend most of their daytime in daycare. The total population in Norway is 4.5 million; the total number of kindergartens is 6 000 with about 250 000 kids. Thus, kindergartens are a very important arena for preventive health initiatives. Eating habits are created early in a person’s life; thus, it is very important that kids are introduced to healthy eating habits they can keep for life. Research conducted by the Directorate for Health and Social Affairs in 2005 shows that many daycares serve healthy food. However, there is much potential for further improvements.
The MER campaign for daycare inspires and motivates the employees to serve more fruit and vegetables, but also inspires the kids to taste, re-taste and eventually establish a preference for different fruits and vegetables. This is all in line with the government guidelines for health and physical activity. MER certified daycare Daycare centers sign a contract that they will meet the following criteria:
- Ready to eat, cut to serve fruit and vegetables are served as part of daily meals
- Fruit is served when celebrating children's birthdays (www.frukt.no/fruktfest)
- Employees complete an e-learning course (www.frukt.no/barnehage)
- Healthy eating is presented as a theme at parent meetings, and parents are about the MER initiative Daycare centers that meet these criteria receive MER certification.
Sports events - a new market for sale of fruits and vegetables
Norway’s Athletic Association has 2 million members, and 1 million of these members are under 24 years of age. Members spend a large portion of their free time at sports clubs. This makes it important to make healthier choices available at sports clubs, tournaments and other events. Surveys have shown that it is often junk food that is sold at clubs and tournaments, and fruit and vegetables are not readily available. MER provides a concept, tips, practical advice and PR kits for clubs that want to serve more fruit and vegetables at their facilities. Statistics from 2006 showed that over a half million cups with ready to eat, cut to serve fruit and vegetables were sold at clubs and sporting events and over 500 clubs have reported success with serving fruit and vegetables!
Over one million people eat at least one meal every day at cantinas in Norway. It is important that fruit and vegetables are made the easy choice. Research shows that there is a need to provide cantina personnel with education and inspiration. An e-learning course for cantina personnel has been developed and focuses on incorporating more fruit and vegetables in meal preparation. Information and educational materials place emphasis on customer satisfaction, fewer sick days and reduced production costs. Over 100 cantinas have used materials and are serving more fruits and vegetables.
The MER campaign is successful in encouraging Norwegians to eat, MORE fruits and vegetables, and at the same time provides meal occasions to do just this.