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Evaluation of a Statewide Project to Nudge Healthy Choices in School Lunchrooms

By: , , , , , , , , , & Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 altered the foods provided by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Student meals were to include more whole grains, low-fat milk, and a variety of fruit and vegetables. This case study describes a statewide project that worked with school cafeterias to implement and evaluate interventions aimed at student consumption of these new meal components. Ohio Smarter Lunchrooms enrolled 51 schools interested in increasing fruit, vegetable, and overall meal consumption. We paired school nutrition staff with regional university and public health partners; the partners were responsible for all program data collection. Fruit and vegetable selection and consumption were measured through a combination of tray waste, observation, and cafeteria production records. Vegetable renaming, placing salad bars in prime locations, and making fruit available in multiple locations were successful smarter lunchroom strategies. In two elementary schools that renamed vegetables with kid-friendly names, dark green waste decreased by 13% and 14%. Slightly more than half (55%) of cafeterias completed the project. Another 35% of the cohort reached a stage of preparation with plans to complete the project in the upcoming year. Implementing building-specific interventions, along with collecting pre- and post-intervention data, was difficult to complete in one academic school year. Our future projects will explore standardized interventions and simplified measures of collective impact.

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