Schools Use Psychology To Defeat Childhood Obesity

An epidemic of obesity in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in children, and there has been little done to stop it, until now. On Tuesday, October 14, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture announced a groundbreaking $2 million initiative that will fund studies to improve kids’ and teens’ eating habits.

Past Attempts at Stopping Obesity

There have been halfhearted attempts to rid lunch cafeterias of unhealthy products before, but all eventually failed. In the past, many schools removed caffeinated drinks from the lunchroom, but students simply brought their own drinks for lunch. To combat students’ poor food choices, several meal programs included a piece of fruit with each meal, however, most often than not, apples and oranges found themselves a new home in the trashcan.

Take Two

The Department of Agriculture insists with this new proposed study, things will be different. Instead of force-feeding kids healthy food, the driving purpose behind this initiative is to ensure children and teens are making the healthy choice on their own. Some techniques include hiding the chocolate milk behind the plain milk, putting fruit into eye appealing baskets, instead of keeping them in stainless steel bins. Cornell researchers have already successfully tested out similar techniques such as: moving salad bars next to the registers and starting quick, do-it-yourself sandwich lines, similar to Subway.


Established food researcher and Cornell scientist Brian Wansink has conducted innovative food studies in the past, including the depiction of food in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. In an attempt to stop childhood obesity, Wansink changed the names of certain vegetables to seem more appealing to children and teens. Carrots were transformed into “X-ray carrots”, and green beans made the transition to “lean, mean green beans.” As a result of the name changes, there was a distinct rise in the consumption of healthier foods.

Wansink indicates one of the plaguing flaws in school meal programs, “We were making it very convenient for them to quickly go through the line and get a bunch of less nutritious items.”

Long Way To Go To Stop Childhood Obesity

In the past, schools found themselves alone when they tried to restructure the meal programs to ensure students were making healthier decisions. After the announcement of a $2 million initiative by the Department of Agriculture, schools throughout America now have a helping hand in the fight against childhood obesity. Hopefully with the help of behavior scientists, the issue of childhood obesity will become a problem of the past.