We’ve seen that changing procurement practices is one of the most high-impact, meaningful ways to transform school food, but it can be helpful to tackle the issues from multiple angles. Smarter Lunchrooms is a new project from Cornell University that aims to design sustainable, research-based lunchrooms that subtly guide students to make smarter choices.
The project’s creators explain:
What can a well-meaning school do to help their students eat healthier? One way might be to raise the prices on the less healthy foods. Another way might be to eliminate unhealthy choices from the food service menu.
Many schools are hesitant to go this far. They are in the very real position of also balancing concerns of profitability, compliance, variety, and unfairness to those who are income disadvantaged.
Another set of solutions has been largely overlooked. These are the lunchroom changes – the environmental changes – that can lead a student to unknowingly make healthier lunch choices without knowing they were “nudged” in that direction by the way the lunchroom was designed.
The Smarter Lunchrooms site provides robust research, real-life case studies and plenty of tips for how to change the lunchroom to “nudge” kids toward healthier choices, such as re-naming menu items to sound more appetizing, making vegetables and fruit the “default” sides to a main dish, and displaying healthy foods in appealing, well-lit ways.
Is your district employing any of these tactics? If so, we’d love to hear about it!