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Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative

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  1. Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative Guiding Principles that Improve School Lunch Eating Behaviors

  2. Lunch Ladies Fight Back • A conversation with a school food vendor • Parents have pressed to bar many unhealthy (and some fairly healthy) foods • Then parents send their kids to school with a sack lunch • The question they asked: How can we get kids to participate given the restrictions we face? • Chocolate milk and fighting lunch ladies (Education News)

  3. Choices… are they really ours? • Behavioral economics • What factors affect our choices? • Is it just price and preference? • If so, the trilemma is a dead end • Are there other options? • Lots of research in this area • We want to know, what kinds of changes affect student’s daily choices in the lunchroom

  4. Of Organ Donation and Diseases • Only 28% of US citizens become organ donors • More than 98% of those in Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Poland and Portugal • Why are we so much more stingy with our organs? • In the U.S. a person is considered not to be a donor unless they fill out a card and explicitly choose to be a donor • In these other countries, you are a donor unless you choose otherwise • Denmark—5%, Sweden 85%

  5. Framing and Choice • What is framing? • How we frame the choice can have a big impact on the choice itself • Consider a deadly disease that would possibly kill 500 if no policy action • People find it easier to endorse a plan that could save 300 vs. one that will allow 200 to die for sure – though these are the same plans • Behavioral economists call this choice architecture

  6. Choice Architecture • Choice architecture • Designing the choice to lead an individual to a particular outcome without forcing them • Uses the tools of psychology to access economic decision-making • Generally adjusting the choice architecture is cheap • Big bang for the buck

  7. What do Organs Have to do with School Lunch? • Rising obesity rates • Many blame school lunches • Local school lunch administrators are under pressure to improve quality and nutrition • Cut sugared drinks, dessert items, pizza, hot dogs and burgers • Various proponents push for selling more “whole grain”, “vegetarian”, “organic” or “raw” • Often these are not what the students want

  8. School Lunch Trilemma • Pressure to improve the nutrition of meals • Pressure to keep participation up • Pressure to balance revenue and cost

  9. School Lunch Trilemma • Pressure to improve the nutrition of meals • Pressure to keep participation up • Pressure to balance revenue and cost We are going to stop selling chocolate milk

  10. School Lunch Trilemma • Pressure to improve the nutrition of meals • Pressure to keep participation up • Pressure to balance revenue and cost We are going to stop selling chocolate milk I’m going to stop buying

  11. School Lunch Trilemma • Pressure to improve the nutrition of meals • Pressure to keep participation up • Pressure to balance revenue and cost I’m going to drink three glasses of chocolate milk when I get home We are going to stop selling chocolate milk I’m going to stop buying

  12. The School Lunch Challenge • Schools are also under budget pressures • School lunch programs should not operate at a loss • Reducing sales or increasing costs could put local programs in jeopardy • Offering new items or specialty items can increase production costs or time • Healthier fare are often lowest grossing • Getting rid of the most popular foods may gut sales • Often less healthy items are the highest margin items • Kids may simply stop participating

  13. The School Lunch Challenge • The Challenge: • Improve nutritional content • Maintain low cost • Maintain participation • Encourage longer term healthy decisions

  14. Why?: Economics and Psychology • Reactance • Rebelling against a threat to freedom • Fat tax versus a thin subsidy • Limits on ketchup • Don’t press this button • Attribution • It was my choice, I will repeat it in the future • Choosing between celery and carrots Students given a choice between carrots and celery were much more likely to eat their vegetables than students forced to take only carrots.

  15. What We Know About Food Decisions • We have two decision-making mechanisms • Deliberative – Rational • Emotional – Naïve knee-jerk reactions • Which takes over depends on the level of cognitive resources available • Stress or distraction leads us to eat more and eat worse • It takes effort and resources to resist temptation

  16. Hot vs. Cold Decisions Cold State • We consider • Prices • Health information • Logic • We buy • Smaller portions • Moderate foods Hot State • We eat for • Taste • Convenience • Size • Visual effect • This decision is an exception • We buy • Bigger • More hedonic

  17. Sin and Virtue • The food environment responds to us • Marketers have learned to sell sinful foods to those in a hot state • Healthy convenience food is generally a flop • Healthy fast food is a flop • Bad foods that are difficult to prepare are also less successful • Cognitive policies (information or prices) won’t impact hot state consumers • Commit while in a cold state: • Control your future environment • Limit exposure to temptation

  18. What Does this Mean for Kids • Ever wonder why kids food is generally less healthy? • Kids have not fully developed their rational system • Very little understanding of long term consequences • Developing understanding of the marketplace • Almost like a hot state – all the time • Reactance to paternalism • Fortunately most kids find some healthy foods to be appealing and acceptable • We can make some foods cool • We can lead them to make the right choice

  19. Smarter Lunchrooms • What if we design the lunch room to gently encourage the decisions we want? • Use behavioral theory to encourage better choices • Some of these changes can be extremely low cost • This avoids reactance • Banning sodas etc. can be self-defeating • Encourages future healthy choices

  20. BEN • Clamor to improve child nutrition • Increase access to fruits and vegetables • Restricting choice • Multiplying rules and regulations for schools • Behavioral economics expands the traditional rational model of behavior • Draws upon insights from psychology, shifting preferences, and strategies for simplifying decision problems

  21. BEN • Tastes one forms as a child may change as one matures • Foundational attitudes and food strategies remain • Behavioral economics presents a way to encourage healthy behavior without inducing the resistance and reactance associated with restrictive policies • When individuals have made a choice, they are more likely to continue with a behavior than when the same choice was imposed on them

  22. Our Mission • The mission of BEN is to • Explore how the tools of behavioral economics can be used to encourage better school lunch choices • Share successful behavioral strategies with school lunch administrators and encourage their use • Provide policy-makers with accurate information on how policy changes may impact children’s choice behavior

  23. Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics and Child Nutrition Research

  24. What is the ‘Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative’? • The Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative seeks to… • Nudge choices: Using research-based suggestions to guide students to unknowingly, make smarter, healthier choices in the lunchroom • Increase sales: Finding innovative ways to increase cafeteria sales and participation by encouraging greater consumption of healthier foods • Implement low-cost/no cost changes: Since many cafeterias receive a limited budget, suggestions are focused on changing the school lunch environment • Keep a variety of food choices: Nudging students without completely eliminating unhealthy choices from the menu or only raising prices on less healthy foods

  25. Smarter Lunchroom Initiative: 2 For 2011

  26. Activity • In groups of 2-4 • Use cut-outs, glue, poster board and markers to recreate a cafeteria you are familiar with • Try to choose a challenging case • Circle three challenges in red • What healthy foods won’t sell? • What ends up in the trash? • What unhealthy food is too popular? • Circle three successes in blue • What healthy food does sell? • What unhealthy food sells in moderation? • Discuss these challenges and successes in your groups • What ideas do you have? • What made the successes?

  27. What makes a lunchroom “smarter”? • Our findings suggest some of the following areas on which to focus: • Spatial arrangements (e.g., placement of hot lunch line, salad bar, and a la carte; healthy vs. less healthy items; lighting) • Food and nutrition concerns (e.g., increase whole grains, greater variety of healthy options) • Payment options (e.g., debit vs. cash system) • Social and communicative influences on choices (e.g., influence of cafeteria staff and peers)

  28. 6 of 16 Basic Principles to Consider First, let’s consider each of these principles separately… The following principles are based on research concerning various environmental cues that influence eating behavior, with a focus on school lunchroom environments Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies

  29. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Large portions = eating more vs. Smaller portions = eating less

  30. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • A “vat” of croutons leads to a “crouton salad,” rather than a “salad with croutons” Leads to… NOT to

  31. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • Condiment “vats” lead to overpouring = excess waste and extra calories • Using squeeze bottles with smaller openings, or pre-portioned containers for condiments, may limit overpouring • Use smaller-sized spoons for croutons and other less healthy toppings (ex., bacon bits)

  32. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • Students respond to serving dishes and utensils • Reducing the size of containers reduced consumption by 24% • This could be leveraged to both reduce consumption of bad foods, and increase consumption of good foods Decreasing the size of the bowls from 18 oz. to 14 oz. reduced the size of the average cereal serving at breakfast by 24 percent.

  33. Make healthy foods more convenient Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • There is evidence that an increased availability of convenient foods is one underlying cause of increased consumption* • By making unhealthy items less available and more inconvenient (more difficult to find, located behind other healthier options, etc.) students might be less likely to consume these items. *Just, D.R., Mancino, L., and Wansink, B. (2007, June). Could behavioral economics help improve diet quality of nutrition assistance program participants? Economic Research Report Number 43. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economics Research Service.

  34. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Let’s try diagnosing this lunchroom Ask yourself: Are the less healthy foods more easily obtained by the student than the healthy foods?

  35. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Notice that fruit is less convenient to grab (under a shelf) than the packaged snacks that are out in the open—perhaps the cafeteria might consider rearranging the food items.

  36. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies

  37. Long lunch lines = NOT convenient Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • More than 80 percent of students cited long lunch lines as a problem* • Plus, in some schools, not all students are allotted a lunch period due to extracurricular activities and/or elective studies , so many of these students often skip lunch altogether. *Mancino, L, and J. Guthrie. “When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might be a Good Thing.” AmberWaves, March 2009.

  38. In order to increase meal purchases through the cafeteria, the lunch lines should be positioned so that the hot lunch line (or more healthy lunch line) is most convenient, rather than the a la carte lunch line. • In order to promote healthier eating habits, lunchrooms can offer on-the-go lunch options for students with a full schedule that doesn’t allow for a lunch period • Allowing students to select healthy sandwiches ahead of time may help reduce spontaneous purchases of less nutritious foods and decrease the wait time for the hot lunch lines, instead of choosing less healthy, but “quicker” foods such as chips or French fries. *Mancino, L, and J. Guthrie. “When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might be a Good Thing.” AmberWaves, March 2009. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Helping to alleviate long lunch lines

  39. Ala Cart Items Hot Lunch Line Salad Bar Cash Register #1 Cash Register #2

  40. Ala Cart Items Hot Lunch Line Old Location for Salad Bar New Location for Salad Bar Cash Register #1 Cash Register #2

  41. Ala Cart Items Hot Lunch Line Daily Salad Sales increased 200-300% within two weeks Old Location for Salad Bar New Location for Salad Bar Cash Register #1 Cash Register #2

  42. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Helping to alleviate long lunch lines • Healthy convenience lines • Grab’n’go healthy sandwiches • Chocolate milk • Hot lunch • Decreased unhealthy food sales by 27% • Increased overall milk consumption • White milk remained constant • Overall sales increased Creating a speedy "healthy express" checkout line for students who were not buying desserts and chips doubled the sales of healthy sandwiches.

  43. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • Research has found that items displayed more visibly, at eye level, or first in line tend to be chosen more often than other items* • Put healthier choices at eye level, less healthy options at the bottom or way up top *Mancino, L, and J. Guthrie. “When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might be a Good Thing.” AmberWaves, March 2009.

  44. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • Notice the hidden fruit vs. fruit out in the open • Place healthier items within reach or in areas of high traffic

  45. Out of sight, out of mind… Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • Research has shown that simply seeing a brownie or other high-calorie food can lead to unplanned consumption. • Conversely, the image of a healthy food option could lead to consumption of healthier foods.

  46. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies Clear glass doors can make all the difference • When vending machines display less healthy drinks and sodas at eye level, students might feel more tempted to purchase them; the same holds for clear ice cream freezers • Instead, display water bottles in the machines through a clear glass and use soda machines that only have labeled buttons (and not the actual bottle display) so that students would be encouraged through the visual cues to purchase water rather than soda or other sugary drinks

  47. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies

  48. A similar principle… Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies • •At high school X, the salads are located behind refrigerator glass doors which need to be opened, while the French fries are left out under heat lamps. • Previous research has shown that people ate more ice cream when the lid of an ice cream cooler was left open than when it was closed. • By keeping the refrigerated section open and putting a door in front of the French fry heaters, students might be nudged to eat more salads and take less French fries.

  49. Manage Portion Sizes Increase Convenience Improve Visibility Enhance Taste Expectations Utilize Suggestive Selling Set Smart Pricing Strategies