School Lunch Advisory Councils' Use of Behavioural Economics Influences Vegetable Selection and Waste

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Health Education Journal

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Introduction: Fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption is low among adolescents, and waste of these foods is high in school cafeterias. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of behavioural economic strategies and structural lunchroom changes on FV selection and waste in high-school lunch programmes using the collaborative efforts of teachers, food service directors and students.

Methods: A pre-post quasi-experimental design was used to collect plate waste data for 3 days in the autumn and 3 days in the spring semesters. Five high-school cafeterias from three rural and two urban counties in Montana participated. School Lunch Advisory Councils selected and implemented behavioural economic strategies that focused on increasing selection and decreasing waste of FVs served on the main service line and salad bar. Plate waste data were collected using direct weighing and the quarter-waste method. Preintervention to postintervention plate waste amounts were compared using descriptive statistics and the Mann-Whitney U test.

Results: Vegetable selection at the salad bar significantly increased (p < .05). Vegetable waste significantly decreased at the main service line (p < .05). Fruit selection and waste did not significantly change.

Conclusion: Changes in the lunchroom environment through behavioural economic strategies provide one avenue to increase selection and decrease waste of vegetables, ultimately influencing overall dietary quality among high-school students and creating more sustainable food systems.


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