Abstract| Volume 45, ISSUE 4, SUPPLEMENT , S16-S17, July 2013

Nudging Students towards Healthful Choices through Education Enhanced by Environmental Cues


      To influence student fruit and vegetable choices through 4th and 5th grade classroom nutrition education integrated with cafeteria nudge marketing and choice architecture.

      Target audience

      4th and 5th grade students, teachers, cafeteria staff.

      Theory, Prior Research, Rationale

      Social marketing and learning; behavioral economics.


      Over the 2011-2012 school year, 34 Maryland schools in 6 school systems participated in Project ReFresh, an integrated classroom education and cafeteria improvement program to increase student fruit and vegetable choices. School foodservice staff collaborated with University of Maryland Extension educators to create and implement comprehensive, relatively low cost changes in school cafeterias. Cafeteria nudges, the environmental cues or structuring to influence behavior, were unique to individual schools and districts, yet easily replicable, and coordinated with monthly 4th and 5th grade ReFresh curricular lessons when feasible. Some schools served as controls, others as either a cafeteria only or cafeteria and classroom intervention.


      Analysis of cafeteria production records indicates that offering students more variety of fruits and vegetables, in addition to implementing Project ReFresh activities, may increase their selection of these foods. Based on student pre/post survey responses, fewer students receiving classroom education and cafeteria nudges consumed no fruit or vegetable the previous day, as compared to students who received no education or cafeteria only intervention.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Engaging and empowering foodservice staff on design and implementation of simple strategies for promoting fruits and vegetables can influence students to choose more of them. Integrating classroom nutrition education and cafeteria within the school environment may improve student fruit and vegetable consumption.


      USDA Team Nutrition, USDA SNAP-Ed in cooperation with Maryland Department of Human Resources, University of Maryland.