Cornell has launched a new web site, smarterlunchrooms.org, for school lunch administrators and managers that may put us one step closer to a world of nudge cafeterias. David Just, a professor at Cornell’s Department of Applied Economics and Management explains the idea to US News:
Rather than advocating outright bans of certain foods, its goal is to “design sustainable lunchrooms that guide smarter choices.” The key word there is “guide.” Simply replacing pizza with whole-wheat flatbreads and fries with roasted sweet potatoes doesn’t allow kids to learn how to make real-world choices, says David Just…”We set it up so that everything is available and the kids are enabled to see how to make decisions,” he says. Making those decisions, he says, leads to good habits.
Among the ideas are 1) Separate cash only lanes for desserts and soft drinks; 2) Renaming vegetables (think “X-ray Vision Carrots”) or simply describing healthy foods in richer detail (think “rich vegetable medley soup” instead of “vegetable soup.” Anyone who does not appreciate the power of naming probably doesn’t eat out much. However, not all names appear to be effective. For example, calling an item “Food of the Day” doesn’t spark much of an appetite; 3) Shrinking the size of plates in the a la carte line in order to make food portions look larger, and therefore a better value.
For a related article with a headline we love, check out “When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might be a Good Thing,” in this month’s Amber Waves from the USDA. Among the more interesting observations is the long length of time (relatively speaking) that students spend in line at lunch cafeteria: 5 minutes out of a 30-minute lunch period. A long time in check-out line can expose one to more temptations , very few of which are probably going to be healthy.