Nudging in New York lunchroom cafeterias

The state of New York, with help from Cornell’s Brian Wansink, puts nudge principles to work in its cafeterias

In New York, the Department of Health decided to do some research. How much, it wondered, would a school need to cut its prices for apples, oranges and bananas to increase sales by 5 percent over a year? Brian Wansink…soon discovered he had been hired to answer the wrong question. Price wasn’t the problem. It was the presentation.

In the school cafeterias Wansink surveyed, whole fruits were displayed in steel bins in dimly lighted areas of the lunch line. Wansink went to discount store T.J. Maxx and bought a cheap wire fruit rack. He found an extra desk lamp, which he used to shine on the fruit. “Sales of fruit in one school went up 54 percent. Not in a semester: by the end of the second week,” Wansink said. “It would have gone up faster, but they kept running out of fruit.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to award $2 million in research grants for federal food policy inspired by behavioral economics. Full story in the Washington Post.

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