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Around the Quad

Spurring Schoolkids to Eat Salad


Even small, inexpensive changes to a school lunchroom layout, such as placing fruit in attractive bowls, can make a huge difference in getting students to make better nutritional choices, according to Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, and David Just, associate professor, both in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Now a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow them to offer such expertise nationwide.

The new Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (to be known as BEN) will be a hub for psychological and economic research connected to childhood nutrition. Using the principles of behavioral economics, the center will help disseminate information on how schools can creatively “nudge”—not force—students to eat healthier.

In pilot studies, one school increased consumption of salads by close to 300 percent by simply moving their salad bar near a natural bottleneck in the checkout line.

“We want to stimulate research that schools can actually use,” says Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.