Revisiting cafeteria food

26 Oct

Craig Lee/Chronicle

Came across this post today about changes to the National School Lunch Program that could help prevent rising childhood obesity levels.

Instead of focusing on traditional methods (forcing one, healthy meal option on students) that have been shown to be less effective, if not more detrimental, many schools are using tactics based on behavioral psychology. Now, many believe that “the ideal lunchroom—the smartest lunchroom—would be the one that led children to make healthy choices in the face of some more tempting options.”

And they have good reason to believe that this is the better approach. The article cites many real-world success stories such as the following:

One school in upstate New York was able to increase consumption of salads by close to 300 percent by simply moving their salad bar six feet from the wall and placing it near a natural bottleneck in the check-out line.

Even the USDA has acknowledged the potential of this approach:

To help make lunchrooms smarter, the USDA is taking a big step forward in supporting these more innovative and sustainable solutions through its recent funding of our Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program. The goal is to encourage researchers and schools to work together in finding solutions to make lunchrooms smarter that are easy and cheap—or even free.

I’m excited to see what other changes will be made to cafeteria dining–especially since they are changes that can be made across communities of all socioeconomic levels.

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