Dr. David Just explains how layout and design can affect the food items students select at the Valley City High Schoolâ€™s Hi-Liner Diner.
Does design affect diet?
The Valley City Public Schools, under the direction of food service director Sue Milender, will be conducting an experiment this week to track food sales following a visit from behavioral economist Dr. David Just.
Just was taken on a tour of the schools Friday morning with Milender after speaking at the Hi-Liner Activity Center on Thursday.
â€śEssentially, Iâ€™m looking for small ways that we can change the design or layout of the food that leads kids to choose healthier items rather then the less healthy items.â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s not about taking the less healthy items away, the chips will still be here for breakfast, but it wonâ€™t be the first thing the kids see.
Just said that keeping fresh fruit and vegetables at eye level will prompt students to make more health conscious decisions about what they are putting in their bodies, and if junk food is moved to the back or to a lower rack, it will be â€śout of sight and out of mind.â€ť
â€śSmall things like that can have a big impact, about 30 percent on the movement of fruit versus movement of chips or Rice Krispie treats,â€ť Just said.
The tools used to dispense food did not escape Justâ€™s eye, either. He said at one school he visited, a vat of mayonnaise was available to students with a large ladle to scoop it out. He also pointed out a small pair of tongs used to dispense strawberries at Washington Elementary School.
â€śSmall inconvenience really does limit how much we take, and we may think it doesnâ€™t affect us much,â€ť said Just. â€śFor some of those less healthy items, finding the right service so that itâ€™s not so inconvenient that people canâ€™t get it who want it, but itâ€™s not convenient to take tons and tons and overeat it.â€ť
Milender said it was an honor to have Just at the schools, and his only two stops in North Dakota last week were in Valley City and Fargo.
â€śWeâ€™re going to take all the information that heâ€™s given us and weâ€™re going to put into practice,â€ť Milender said. â€śWeâ€™ll be watching sales.â€ť