Color Pisani 08.19.16 (1)Somehow, I blinked and things changed in America. Things changed drastically. I could give you dozens of examples from the little stuff to the big stuff, but let me focus on the stuff that keeps our elected officials up at night and I don’t mean immigration or the Russians hacking our email. I mean getting wholesome American kids to eat fruits and vegetables.

It’s a problem as old as Adam and Eve, and we better solve it before we attempt to solve Social Security.

Of course, this problem didn’t exist in the olden days. I was raised on the Great Plains, hunting buffalo and growing peyote because I knew someday the enlightened state of Colorado would decriminalize recreational drugs and I would be a billionaire.

Back then, I’d come home from a hard day’s work in the fields, and Ma and Pa would be setting down at the dinner table, and Ma would rustle up some grub, with a hefty helping of collards, turnips and broccoli rabe. (She was one of the few Italians to trek across the Great Plains.) The rules of the house were simple because we were simple people. You couldn’’t get up from the table until you ate all your veggies, even if it meant you missed watching the Beverly Hillbillies.

Times, of course, change and people change with them. Nowadays, young people aren’t eating veggies because they’d rather eat Doritos and Taco Bell. And you better not TELL your kids what to do because you could end up in court or worse, on YouTube. This means you have to rely on the great thinkers of our age to develop programs financed by lucrative government grants.

A recent study concluded that kids eat more vegetables when school cafeterias display banners that portray vegetables as super heroes. (Does that mean Spider Man is a carrot and Wonder Woman is a potato? Or Donald Trump is a butternut squash and Hillary Clinton is zucchini?)

Marketing pays off, according to researchers at Ohio State University. In 10 schools where the program was tested, the number of students who took vegetables doubled when there were banners and TV spots in the cafeteria. The bad news is that less than a quarter of the total group chose the vegetables, and researchers couldn’t say whether the green beans ultimately ended up in the garbage.

A study in Utah elementary schools also found that when kids were paid, they ate more vegetables and fruit. A previous study by Brigham Young University and Cornell concluded that giving kids cash or raffle tickets increased vegetable consumption by 80 percent and reduced waste by 33 percent. The bad news is they stopped eating vegetables once the cash flow stopped. This reminded me a similar initiative that paid kids to do their homework and showed promising results.

Now, I’m all in favor of entitlement programs. The more, the better, especially if I can cash in on them. Furthermore, I’m convinced the capitalist approach of paying to get results — or maybe that’s the socialist approach — is the answer to the vegetable crisis. For example, if kids don’t eat vegetables, America’s farmers will go belly up. On the other hand, if kids don’t throw away their vegetables, the waste disposal industry will collapse. (Students throw out $4 million in vegetables every day.)

It’s a simple choice. If you eat your vegetables, the dollars will flow and you could support yourself into retirement without ever having to work. Plus, you’ll be healthier. You could even support a family and have them enroll in the federal “Eat vegetables and get paid program,” which will be the next great congressional initiative after Obamacare.

This is the sort of creative, innovative, entrepreneurial, socialist thinking that could make America great again, revive the economy and stop corporations from sending  jobs overseas. After all, do we want to be paying people overseas to eat their bok choy? No way. This is a Made in America solution to a social problem in the tradition of banning Big Gulp.

This progressive approach has other applications. For example, Connecticut recently increased its cigarette tax 25 cents to $3.90 a pack, the second highest in the nation. But deterrence isn’t the answer. The Governor and our legislators should pay people to stop smoking. That would also give them money to buy fruits and vegetables, which they won’t eat anyway; however, it could revive the state economy, not to mention the Brussels sprouts industry.

We have to stop punishing people and start rewarding them. That’s the American way. Remember the lesson of the carrot and the stick? Avoid the stick, go for the carrot … even if you hate vegetables.

Contact Joe Pisani at [email protected]