Study: Pre-ordering school lunch may encourage healthier selections

Research shows when students preordered 29.4% ordered the healthier lunch.

May 8—Buying food when hungry is often a recipe for disaster. Researchers at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (B.E.N. Center) set out to test whether or not preordering lunch would nudge students make healthier entrée choices.

In two upstate New York elementary schools, students use an electronic pre-ordering system to order lunch in the morning. Fourteen teachers agreed to enroll their classes in a four-week study to test the effects of pre-ordering lunch. These classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions: 1) stop preordering for the 3rd week and resume for the 4th week, 2) stop preordering for the 4th week, or 3) continue preordering for all four weeks.

What did the sales records report? A significant number of healthier choices were made when students pre-ordered lunch. When preordering was available, 29.4% of students ordered the healthier lunch entrée compared to 15.3% when no preordering took place. When ordering in the lunch line, hunger mixed with the aromas and sight of unhealthy foods won out in spontaneous food decisions: healthy entrée selection was reduced by 48% and less healthy entrée choices increased by 21%.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

Managing Your Business
line kings girl goat open kitchen

Open kitchen concepts satisfy guests’ curiosity and desire for transparency. But there are some caveats. Here’s how to create a positive experience for both staff and customers when the walls are down.

Train to serve

With the back-of-house up front, everybody gets hospitality training. “Our cooks understand the food and what they’re doing incredibly, but translating that to guests requires [soft] skills that need to be honed,” says Marie Petulla, co-owner of two restaurants in Southern California.

Dress for a mess

At Girl & The Goat in Chicago, chef-owner Stephanie...

Ideas and Innovation
regions hospital exterior

One of our new concepts, YumMarket, is a play off our YumPower brand that we have out in the community. We use YumPower in K-12 schools, and there’s a kiosk in a nearby minor league ballpark. We feature only better-for-you choices, such as fresh-made pizzas, sandwiches and healthy grain salads. We want people to know we are taking care of people here the same way we are in the overall community.

Ideas and Innovation
herb garden wall

In high-volume operations, few look at herb gardens as the end-all-be-all budgeting solution. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return on the investment. The value, operators say, is in the message herb gardens and herb walls send—that an operation uses ingredients that are fresh, sustainable and healthy. Here’s how the growing areas have paid off at three operations.

A cafeteria wall at Miles River Middle School in South Hamilton, Mass., houses three rows of hydroponic lettuce spearheaded by an interdisciplinary group of health, science, math, technology and foodservice employees...

FSD Resources