October 4, 2011

Lunch’d: Part One

We take over a school cafeteria to find out if redesigning the lunch line gets students to eat healthier.

Steven: Hey, guys! Steven Fabian here outside Boynton Middle School in Ithaca, New York, and we are on a secret operation. The students inside have no idea they are about to get pranked.

So, the Channel One team has taken over this cafeteria at Boynton Middle School in Ithaca, New York.

And why are we here? We are going to conduct a little experiment. See, profesors at Cornell University have found that just by switching up the layout of the lunch line, it can make students eat healthier without them even knowing it. Let’s see if it works.

Right now, the lunch line is set up the way it normally is. So, we are going to track what the students choose with this layout.

We have got this room completely bugged with twelve hidden cameras. We have got them in boxes, one in the ceiling tile, one in this water bottle. My producers have a bag camera and a glasses camera. And I’ve even got one in this baseball cap. I’m going undercover as the lunch man! Okay. Let’s serve some lunches!

We are filming the teens undercover because, later, we are going to give their lunch line a makeover and see if this method really works — if a lunch line redesign will help students make better food choices.

Student: You new to the school district?

Steven: Yeah, it is my first day. How am I doing?

Student: Good!

Steven: But on this day, what do these teens want to eat the most? The bad stuff! They snapped up tacos, cookies and sugary drinks. But the skim milk and the bean burrito were a tough sell.

Student: Soft taco, please.

Steven: The first girl in line, Samantha, didn’t get any fruit or veggies. But neither did Massimo, Richie, Allayah, Lauren, Brenna, Leavante, Marci, Evan, Narissa, Sammy, Shenice, Cali, Jewell, or Jane.

In fact, just 6% of the school got fruit and only 11% got vegetables. Based on my experience as a lunch man, these teens aren’t even close to the government’s goal of having half their diet as fruits and vegetables.

Alright, lunch is over. I served a ton of pizzas and tacos, but our secret operation isn’t done yet. Little do the students here know we are coming back in three weeks with the secret cameras and a new plan to see if these students will make some healthier choices.

Okay. We are back! We are about to serve the students the exact same lunch but we are going to rearrange the lunch line. The masterminds behind the cafeteria redesign are Cornell University Professors David Just and Brian Wansink.

I wanted to know how they are going to, basically, trick teens into eating right.

So this here is the drink cooler. This is a big culprit because everyone likes Gatorade. Everybody likes those sugary drinks. So, what are we doing here?

“The first thing we’re going to do is place the white milk in front so if a person’s thirsty, at least they have to reach over the milk to pick up a flavored sugared beverage.”

Steven: Step two: they took the pizza, which was the first things in the lunch line, and moved it towards the back. And the veggies and the healthy bean burrito moved right to the front.

Step three: they renamed the healthy food.

“We find that changing something as small as calling these vegetables California Blend or burritos Big Bad Bean Burritos increases sales 27%.”

Steven: Step four: they moved the fruit from a plastic tub into a pretty fruit bowl.

And finally, they took the cookies and put them just out of reach.

“We’re not saying ‘no’ to cookies, we’re just moving them where people have a hard time reaching them.”

“They’re going to have to ask a food service worker to do it. That’s just enough for a certain percentage of kids to say, ‘I’ll just have an orange.’”

Steven: The professors rolled up their sleeves, made their changes, and now it is lunch time!

First up, Samantha ignored the healthy main course and got pizza. Even the professional lunch man couldn’t get her to change.

You don’t want a bean burrito?

Samantha: No.

Steven: Is this going to work or is the joke on us? We will see when we come back!


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