While we’ve seen a lot of action to ban unhealthy foods from school cafeterias, many think this is side-stepping a deeper problem and doing little to encourage overall healthy food choices.
Says Brian Wansink, “The ideal lunchroom isn’t one that eliminates the cookies. The ideal lunchroom is the one that gets children to choose an apple instead of a cookie, but to think it’s their own choice.”
Wansink’s Center for Behavioral Economics and Childhood Nutrition at Cornell University received a $1 million grant in October from the Department of Agriculture for its “smarter lunchroom initiative,” which aims to provide schools with research-based tools and methods to encourage better eating behavior.
Wansink and his colleague, David R, recently wrote in the New York Times about twelve of the effective—and inexpensive—solutions schools have been trying. I shared some of them with you a few weeks ago when I wrote about how to apply them at home, and below is a more comprehensive list:
1) The purchase of nutritious foods such as broccoli increased by 10 to 15 percent when placed at the beginning of the lunch line rather than the middle.
2) Sales increased by 27 percent when healthy foods were labeled more descriptively, such as “creamy corn” rather than “corn.”
3) Students were much more likely to eat their vegetables when given a choice between carrots and celery rather than being forced to take carrots.
4) Sales of ice cream dropped significantly when it was kept out of sight in a freezer with an opaque top.
5) Salad sales nearly tripled when the salad bar was pulled away from the wall and put in front of the checkout.
6) Salad sales increased by a third when cafeteria workers asked children, “Do you want a salad?”
7) Students without food trays ate 21 percent less salad than those with food trays, (but the presence or absence of trays had no impact on ice cream consumption).
8) The average cereal serving size dropped by 24 percent when bowls went from 18 ounces to 14 ounces.
9) Students bought more white milk when the chocolate milk was placed behind the white milk.
10) Fruit sales more than doubled when apples and oranges were placed in fruit bowls, rather than stainless steel pans.
11) Students bought 55 percent fewer desserts and 71 percent more fruit when they were forbidden to use lunch tickets for cookies.
12) Sales of healthy sandwiches doubled when a quick-moving “healthy express” checkout line was designated for students who were not buying chips or desserts.
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