CNIC: Quick-and-easy changes to the school lunchroom

Jan. 15—At the School Nutrition Association’s Child Nutrition Industry Conference in Orlando, Fla., Dr. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab, shared some simple tips to increase student purchases of healthy items.

The first tip is to make items visible and appealing. For example, Wansink said to put fruit in a nice bowl in a well-lit area. He says in schools that have done this, purchases of fruits have increased as much as 100%.

The second tip is, because people decide sequentially what to put on their plates, if you put the healthy items at the front of the line, people will select more of those items.

The third tip is to name the items. For example, instead of bean burrito, use big bad bean burrito. Wansink suggested having students help in the naming process because they know what will resonate with other students.

Wansink also gave tips on how to get high school kids into the lunch line, which is often a struggle for foodservice directors. Wansink said if you advertise your daily specials outside of the cafeteria, on a bulletin or white board, all students will be able to see the offerings, which may persuade them to participate in the school lunch program in the future. He also said that, in some cases, forcing the students to walk through the serving area to get to the seating area in the cafeteria increased participation in the meal program.

Wansink urged directors to make changes immediately. “You don’t have to wait for a congressional session to make changes,” he said.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources