The Feds Get All Jamie Oliver on School Lunch

Andrew Dalton

With attempts to force school kids to stop eating crap at lunch time having mixed results, and asking them pretty please with Stevia on top not really working either, the schools and the feds are going to try tricking them. Not in the Jessica Seinfeld sense, though that wouldn't be the worst idea.

The USDA is giving two million bucks to food researchers to establish the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, or the CFBEICNP. (Pronounced KFF-buh-AYE-KNNPPP. Damn the feds need to work on their acronyms -- what happened to easy ones like NASA?)

The point of the place is to find sneaky ways to present food to make it more enticing to the raging hormones set.

Yeah, it all seems a little silly, like something Jamie Oliver would come up with on a beer bender.

But researchers at Cornell -- where the new center will be and where they've already been working on this stuff for years -- say a few tricks can work wonders, and it's mostly about letting kids feel like they've made their own choices.

Here's some of the suggestions they say they've already seen work.

  • A quick line for self-serve sandwiches and wraps. This doesn't lead them to veggie city, but the teens end up grubbing on healthier stuff than the fried chicken patties and burgers they often get. One student told the AP: "It's like your own little Subway."
  • Moving salad bars next to cash registers where kids spend extra time.
  • Keeping ice cream in freezers with solid instead of see-through glass tops and keeping the lid closed.
  • Hiding chocolate (and strawberry and vanilla) milk behind the plain milk.
  • Keep whole fruit well-lit, prominently placed, and in nice baskets. This can increase by 100 percent, they say. 
  • Cash only for desserts, not school credit or tickets.

I'm thinking you easily could have gotten junk-food loving 14-year-old me to eat oranges if they were just presented in -- or falling out of -- a bra. Maybe I'll email those folks at Cornell.

Does your kid eat healthy at school?

Image via Nina Matthews/Flickr

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