Cafeteria debit cards tied to unhealthy school lunches: Why paying with plastic could be hurting kids

Oct. 11, 2013, Medical Daily

By Chris Weller

Dropping a handful of quarters into the waiting palm of a lunch lady is quickly getting replaced by rapid, blurry swipes of a debit card, and the proliferation in cafeterias around the country has two researchers pushing for greater monitoring of children’s unhealthy spending habits.

Cornell University behavioral economists David Just and Brian Wansink recently investigated the school lunch choices of 2,314 children around the United States. The team compared calorie counts in meals purchased in schools that were debit-only to those that accepted both cash and debit cards. Meals purchased in debit-only schools not only had more calories than in other schools, but also contained a greater number of calories from high-fat, high-sugar foods.

“There may be a reason for concern about the popularity of cashless systems,” the researchers said in a university press release. “Debit cards have been shown to induce more frivolous purchases or greater overall spending by adults and college students.” Continue reading

Fast food: Students struggle with healthy options in short lunch periods

Aug. 28, 2013, NBC Bay Area

By Joanna Lin

The green beans are portioned and displayed in orderly rows. The lasagnas are steaming up their plastic covers. The workers stand ready, their hair netted and aprons tied. The bell rings, and a stream of nearly 1,000 students flood in to Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School’s cafeteria, barely slowing as they load cardboard trays with apple juice, chicken wings, and sliced cucumbers.

Because lunch is free for all students at Bravo, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, no one pauses to pay. Still, during the lunch rush this day in May, food service worker Rodelinda Gomez stops a few.

“Hey! Hey!” Gomez hollers to students with no greens on their trays. “Come on and get your vegetables. You have to get them!” Continue reading

Helping kids make healthier food choices

Feb. 25, 2013, The Boston Globe

By Lara Salahi

Want a way to get kids to choose healthier food? Make it look good and easy to grab, say researchers at Cornell University. Their study, published Feb. 22 in the Journal of Pediatrics, suggests that kids are more likely to choose healthy food if the presentation is appealing and it is within reach.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture required schools to substitute unhealthy foods with nutritious options, but that hasn’t guaranteed that students eat healthier. “We believe that when children take foods of their own volition, they’re more likely to eat them,” said Andrew Hanks, a research fellow at Cornell University and lead author of the study. Continue reading