One of the biggest problems with school lunches is that even if there are healthy options available, it is hard to get children to choose them over the less healthy alternatives. The trick to having them make the right decision is simple marketing: if healthy options are displayed attractively, children are more likely to choose them. According to the Cornell Center for Behavior Economics, when fruit is put in attractive and prominently displayed baskets, fruit consumption went up by 103%.
David Just, one of the researchers, told NPR that the best placement for the baskets was next to the checkout counters, because that’s where ”kids spend more time looking at it” while waiting in line. The best thing about these changes is that it literally doubles the amount of healthy food kids are eating at zero cost to schools. Similar no-cost solutions to improving student nutrition include closing the lid to the ice-cream box, moving the location of the salad bar and renaming vegetable options to sound more appealing.
This research comes at an opportune time, as many are looking at how subtle marketing ploys affect consumer behavior in grocery stores. Whole Foods, for example, uses similar methods of fruit displays to “symbolize” straight from the farm freshness. Behavioral economics is, indeed, showing that these marketing displays affect not only consumers in the grocery store, but children in their cafeterias.
With October being National Farm-To-School-Month, it’s important to think about not only where our children’s food is coming from – but where it is going. Now that schools know the ways to get kids to choose healthier options in the cafetaria, they should certainly do so, allowing more children to make the right choice: nutritious, farm-fresh fruit and vegetables.
Photo credit: dennis's Flickr stream.