School caterer ‘nudges’ secondary school pupils to eat more healthily

Industry
08/04/2019 - 08:24
School caterer, Chartwells, has successfully ‘nudged’ secondary school pupils to choose healthier options whilst in lunch.

The pilot scheme saw an average increase of 8% in the take up of healthier choices, moving the caterer to introduce a customised menu nationwide to its portfolio of approximately 450 secondary schools, after the Easter break.

Richard Taylor, managing director at Chartwells, said: “Encouraging healthier eating is core to our activity as we know that often school meals may be a child’s main meal of the day.

“The results of the trial have provided us with so much insight into what more we can do to encourage healthy eating. Findings from this compelling pilot have been used to create new menus across our secondary schools and I am looking forward to seeing the positive impact these measures will make as we seek to improve nutritional awareness in schools.

“Healthy eating can improve productivity and increase energy and alertness. We believe that by working together and continuing to educate students about choosing more nutritious meals, schools as well as their pupils, will reap the benefits.”

With the aim to establish what ‘nudges’ influenced pupils to choose healthier dishes, Chartwells piloted the ‘Nudge, Nudge’ scheme in 15 secondary schools, where they serve around 7,500 school meals every day.

School menus were tailored to include a number of ‘nudging’ techniques. These included: Red heart stickers next to the more nutritious menu options to draw attention to the dishes; adjectives relating to texture, taste or smell describing the healthier choices; nutritionist’s picks positioned at the top of menus, placed at point-of-sale and promoted on posters, as well as being part of a loyalty card scheme; educating students about the importance of healthy eating via assemblies, workshops and health stalls.

To measure the impact, schools were divided between those that had one of the nudges, all of the nudges and then schools which acted as the ‘control’ group who had no changes made to the menu. The most successful nudge, aptly named ‘Follow Your Heart’, increased sales by 8%. It was achieved through using red heart stickers on grab and go items such as selected sandwiches, fruit pots and water; and on menus for the nutritionist’s chosen main meals.

It found that the ‘Follow Your Heart’ nudge became the most effective.

School meals advisor and former Lead Association for Catering in Education (LACA) chair, Patricia Fellows MBE, added: “I’m delighted to endorse ‘Nudge, Nudge’, anything that encourages students in secondary schools to make healthier choices from the school lunch menu gets my full support.

“These results show that using behavioural insights can lead to a real change in students eating habits, which could have a big impact on their futures. I congratulate Chartwells on the huge success of this project and hope that this initiative will be extended to other schools across the country.”

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