Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Danya Keene


Childhood obesity is on the rise in the United States, putting many of the nation’s children at an increased risk of developing serious health conditions. One way this crisis is being addressed is through efforts such as those made by the National School Lunch Program to improve children’s dietary quality by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables provided in school meals. However, offering students more fruits and vegetables does not guarantee that they will consume more fruits and vegetables, and some critics believe these new regulations will simply lead to more meal waste without increasing students’ fruit and vegetable consumption. This study applies behavioral economics-based principles to a school cafeteria setting to test the effectiveness of subtle “nudges” that encourage fruit and vegetable consumption on increasing students’ selection and overall intake of fruits and vegetables using a pre-post quasi-experimental design. To test this, plate waste was recorded from 547 students prior to the implementation of the subtle nudging intervention and 1774 students post implementation of the intervention. Data was analyzed using Poisson and Logistic regression models to produce incidence rate ratios of fruit and vegetable selection and odds ratios of “trying” and consuming greater than or equal to a half serving of fruits and vegetables at post intervention compared to pre intervention. Overall, an increase was observed in both vegetable selection and consumption at post intervention compared to pre-intervention, while a decrease was observed in both fruit selection and consumption at post intervention compared to pre intervention. More studies are needed in this emerging area of research to better understand the effect of behavioral economics based interventions on fruit and vegetable consumption patterns in school cafeteria settings.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access