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.