Project: Altering Social and Convenience Costs To Improve Students Lunch Choices
Award Year: 2007
Amount of award, fiscal 2007: $200,000.00
Institution: Cornell University
Principal Investigator: David Just
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: Concerns regarding childhood obesity have led many school districts to drastically rethink the operation of cafeterias and vending machines. Pricing penalties are unlikely to work in school lunches where students generally spend their parents' money and who may therefore not feel the pinch of higher prices directly. However, simple changes in the marketing of foods in school cafeterias might lead to healthier choices without severely restricting students' choice set. These methods may also provide students with a more permanent understanding of the tradeoffs and pitfalls of food choices, thereby enabling them to make better food choices despite the temptations that face them in the marketplace. This project will employ a mix of experimental and econometric techniques to analyze the behavior of school-age children faced with actual food choices. A series of laboratory studies will be conducted to examine the initial feasibility of the interventions using the Food Brand Lab at Cornell University. Field experiments will then be conducted using a combination of freshman college students and school-age children attending summer camps at Cornell University. Specifically, the project will examine the effectiveness of the following: 1) Introducing nonmonetary incentive mechanisms-for example, convenience-to encourage the purchase of healthier lunches, both in terms of content and size. 2) Leveraging the social pressures already extant in school-age children through the use of branding techniques to encourage selection and consumption of healthier food choices without restricting food choice. 3) Encouraging more deliberative choices by allowing students to order meals before they arrive in the cafeteria.
Topic: Behavioral Economics, Dietary Intake and Quality