Healthy Convenience: Nudging Students Toward Healthier Choices in the Lunchroom

Journal of Public Health, 2012

14 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012  

Andrew S. Hanks

The Ohio State University

David R. Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Laura E. Smith

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University

Brian Wansink

Cornell University

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Background: In the context of food, convenience is generally associated with less healthy foods. Given the reality of present-biased preferences, if convenience was associated with healthier foods and less healthy foods were less convenient, people would likely consume healthier foods. This study examines the application of this principle in a school lunchroom where healthier foods were made more convenient relative to less healthy foods.

Methods: One of two lunch lines in a cafeteria was arranged so as to display only healthier foods and flavored milk. Trained field researchers collected purchase and consumption data before and after the conversion. Mean comparisons were used to identify differences in selection and consumption of healthier foods, less healthy foods, and chocolate milk.

Results: Sales of healthier foods increased by 18% and grams of less healthy foods consumed decreased by nearly 28%. Also, healthier foods’ share of total consumption increased from 33% to 36%. Lastly, we find that students increased their consumption of flavored milk, but the share of flavored milk consumed to total consumption did not increase.

Conclusions: In a school lunchroom, a convenience line that offered only healthier food options nudged students to consume fewer unhealthy foods. This result has key implications for encouraging healthy behavior in public schools nation wide, cafeterias, and other food establishments.

Keywords: Behavioral economics, convenience, school lunch program, nutrition

JEL Classification: D03, D12, I18

Suggested Citation

Hanks, Andrew S. and Just, David R. and Smith, Laura E. and Wansink, Brian, Healthy Convenience: Nudging Students Toward Healthier Choices in the Lunchroom (2012). Journal of Public Health, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2016425

Andrew S. Hanks (Contact Author)

The Ohio State University ( email )

130A Campbell Hall
1787 Neil Ave.
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

David R. Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States
607-255-2086 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

Laura E. Smith

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University ( email )

Savage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Brian Wansink

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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