The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is dedicated to providing schools with the knowledge, motivation, and resources needed to build lunchroom environments that make healthy food choices the easy choice.
The Movement brings evidence from the fields of economics, marketing, and psychology into the school cafeteria. Smarter Lunchrooms strategies are free or low-cost solutions that nudge students to voluntarily select the healthiest food in the lunchroom. Smarter Lunchrooms can see less waste, higher participation, more satisfied students, and increased consumption of important nutrient-rich foods.
Cornell University professor Dr. David Just is a leading expert in the science of consumer behavior. In 2009, he and colleagues began examining how principles of behavioral economics -- the study of how the social and physical environment influences decision-making -- can influence students’ food selection and consumption in school cafeterias. They partnered with elementary, middle, and high schools to field-test behavioral economics strategies in school lunchrooms to create healthy defaults for kids. In 2010, the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (the B.E.N. Center) was established with funding from USDA FNS/ERS. From 2010-2018, the B.E.N. Center conducted and supported innovative behavioral economics research to discover strategies that improve children’s food choices in schools.
The B.E.N. Center housed the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office, which brings strategies supported by this research to schools nationwide. When the B.E.N. Center grant termed in 2018, leadership of the national office transferred to the Cornell University Institute for Behavioral Economics and Consumer Choice (IBECC).
The National Office continues to provide tools, training, and support to educational, extension, and community groups who apply Smarter Lunchrooms strategies in school lunchrooms, creating environments that “nudge” students towards better nutrition and improved overall health.
Various national initiatives recognize Smarter Lunchrooms as an effective way to achieve environmental change in school cafeterias. See the Partnerships page to find out more.