269357 Total Lunchroom Makeovers: How Principles of Asymmetric Paternalism can Address New School Lunchroom Guidelines

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 1:30 PM - 1:50 PM

Andrew Hanks , Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
David Just, Co-Director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs , Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Brian Wansink, Director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab; John S Dyson Chaired Professor, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management , Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Background: Recently, new regulations were announced that affect what foods schools can offer and what foods students must take as part of a school lunch program meal. Despite well-intended policies, these new mandates do not guarantee that students will actually eat healthier lunches. In this study, we evaluate the impact that a combination of low-cost and no-cost environmental changes, based in principles of asymmetric paternalism, have on what students take and eat during lunch. Methods: In two different cafeterias we introduced several environmental changes, which we refer to as the total lunchroom makeover. Before and after the changes were implemented, trained field researchers collected fruit, vegetable, and starchy side consumption data for each student who purchased a school lunch program meal. Probit regression techniques were used to examine the differences in the likelihood of selecting and consuming fruits, vegetables, and starchy sides before and after the makeover. Results: Total lunchroom makeover changes increased the likelihood that students selected fruit by 13.4% and vegetables by 23.0%. In terms of consumption, after the total lunchroom makeover students were 17.9% more likely to eat fruit and 24.5% more likely to eat vegetables. The intervention had no impact on selection or consumption of starchy sides. Conclusions: This study provides strong evidence that simple, low-cost and no-cost environmental changes can nudge students to take and eat healthier lunches. Even though students still had the liberty to select the items they wished, these cues led them to make healthier choices.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
List low-cost or no-cost changes in lunchrooms that can increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables children eat. Describe an effective evaluation method for measuring tray waste in school cafeterias.

Keywords: Behavioral Research, Child Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the primary author of this piece of research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.