An experiment run by foodservice operator Chartwells will lead to a nationwide rollout of its healthy eating campaign after testing a range of ‘nudges' to promote better diet in secondary schools.
Part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, the firm's ‘nudge nudge' scheme tested different prompts for students to consider healthier options across 15 schools that serve some 7,500 meals daily.
Nudges included red heart stickers next to the more nutritious menu choices; adjectives relating to texture, taste or smell describing the healthier options; advice from nutritionists positioned around the offering and menus along with a loyalty card scheme; and education in assemblies, workshops and health stalls.
Tested against a control group where no changes were made to the menu, the red-sticker campaign - dubbed ‘Follow your Heart' - saw an 8% increase in the uptake of healthier options.
Education was also found to have an impact in the knowledge retained among students. Pre-trial testing found students score an average of 36% on a 10-question test on nutrition and healthy eating. Post-trial knowledge found the result had risen to 85%.
Richard Taylor, managing director of Chartwells commented: "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."
The Follow Your Heart scheme will now be rolled out across the firm's protfolio of 450 secondary school to promote better diets in students.
School meals advisor and former LACA chair, Patricia Fellows, 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."Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).