Amy Fain (Professional Development Coordinator here at CAP) sent me an interesting article on new research into the use of behavior economics to improve school nutrition programs. The new research is funded by $2 million from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The initiative represents a partnership between the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and Economic Research Service. Officials are hoping that this reasearch will produce practical, cost-effective ways schools can help children make more healthful choices during lunch.
The $2 million was distributed to 15 different projects. The largest award ($1 millions) was used establish the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs at Cornell University. According to the USDA’s press release, the Center seeks to:
- Lead and coordinate research on the application of behavioral economic theory to child nutrition projects and activities
- expand the network of social scientists who participate in such research
- disseminate information obtained through its research program to stakeholders, including other researchers, policy and program officials, and the public
Three mid-range grants (totaling $675,000) were made for studies that will evaluate behavioral economic applications to improve food choices. The titles of these three projects are:
- Using Nudges From Cafeterias and Parents To Encourage Healthy Food Choices at School
- Incentivizing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Elementary Schools
- Can Default Options and Incentives Improve Food Choices at School?
The remainder of the money was used to fund 11 smaller developmental grants to increase research capacity in the use of behavioral economics to improve school nutrition programs. These smaller grants ranged from $25,000-$40,000. The activities supported by these smaller grants include:
- fostering relationships between researchers and State or local programs
- testing concepts and methods through small pilot projects
- developing and testing data collection methods
- sponsoring workshops to increase understanding of the application of behavioral economics to school nutrition programs
To read the USDA’s press release, click here.
To read about the projects funded by the initiative, click here.
To read about the program in the Dallas Morning News, click here.
To read more about the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs at Cornell University, click here.
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About two months ago, I posted about the Chefs Move to Schools program as part of a post on school lunches. Today, PBS NewsHour posted a video and corresponding transcript of this program in action. It is an interesting look at how two classically trained chefs and school lunch providers have teamed up to improve the nutrition factor in school lunches. To view the video or read the transcript, click here. To view the original post, click here.
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The movement to revolutionize school lunches is not a new one. Some say it started with Alice Waters, whose focus on local grown food led to the Edible School Yard program. More recently chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the television show associated with it have brought school lunch reform into the mainstream. In Tulsa, OK, we are lucky enough to have Global Gardens – a non-profit educational organization that seeks to empower low-income children and neighborhoods through community gardens. Each child in the program has their very own plot on which they can grow anything the Oklahoma weather will allow! In addition to showing children that gardening is fun and useful, the program seeks to:
- Develop science-based community garden spaces, where the community has ownership of the implementation, progress, and maintenance of the garden.
- Encourage the use of the garden as a central gathering and meeting place for the community.
- Teach an all-encompassing curriculum that connects the garden with other disciplines and allows students to connect the learning in the garden to both school learning and real life experiences.
- Establish local, national, and international connections with students through the Internet, based on growing and eating food, and various cultural practices involving plants.
Now, as part of her Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is launching the Chefs Move to Schools program in hopes of making school lunches more nutritious and appealing. According to a White House press release:
The “Chefs Move to Schools” program, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pair chefs with interested schools in their communities so together they can create healthy meals that meet the schools’ dietary guidelines and budgets, while teaching young people about nutrition and making balanced and healthy choices. With more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever.
“Many children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school and as families work to ensure that kids eat right and have active play at home, we also need to ensure our kids have access to healthy meals in their schools,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! campaign.”
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