Simple, effective health innovations: Color, size, placement in nutrition delivery

4672084996_030a867c3a_zIf you invented a nutritional delivery system that could increase the consumption of fruit by elementary students by 100%, triple the amount of salad they ate, and reduce serving sizes in specific foods by 24%, what would you do? Launch a start-up, begin marketing, manufacturing and analyzing ROI and projected earnings?

Not if you are Brian Wansink and colleagues at Cornell’s Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. If you are part of his team you simply suggest that folks walk through their cafeteria and pay attention to how food is laid out, how nutrition is being delivered. that's what they did as part of a “low cost/no cost” initiative to improving childhood nutrition. In the process they found that:

+Placing fruits in colorful bowls increased sales by 100%

+Moving salad carts in front of the cash register tripled salad sales

+Asking kids “do you want a salad?” increased salad intake by 30%

+Reducing bowl sizes from 18 ounces to 14 ounces reduced average breakfast cereal serving by 24%

+Creating express checkouts for healthy foods (but not calorie dense, unhealthy choices) increased the sale of healthy sandwiches by 100%

+Placing chocolate milk behind white milk increases sales of plain milk and reduces sales of the chocolate variety

+Putting opaque glass on top of ice cream freezers reduces ice cream consumption.

In other words, they made it fun, attractive and easy to eat healthy, and more difficult to make unhealthy decisions. They didn't prohibit poor nutritional choices, they simply moved them.

Just like with health care, where delivery science and management are being recognized for their tremendous potential, sometimes-simple innovations in how we get products and services to people can make all the difference. Is there a management-based field of “nutritional delivery science” in the future?

Photo credit: The author, via Flickr