Andrew S. Hanks, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, said in two upstate New York elementary schools, students used an electronic pre-ordering system to order lunch in the morning. Fourteen teachers agreed to enroll their classes in a four-week study to test the effects of pre-ordering lunch.
The classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions: stop preordering for the third week and resume for the fourth week, stop preordering for the fourth week, or continue preordering for all four weeks.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found 29 percent of 272 students who participated in the study selected the healthier entree when pre-ordering, compared with 15 percent when pre-ordering was not available.
"Students who selected their entree in the lunch line, where decisions are biased by aromas and sights of tasty, less healthy foods, decreased selection of healthy entrees by 48 percent and increased selection of less healthy entrees by 21 percent," Hanks said in a statement.