It is often assumed that children avoid fruit in school cafeterias because of higher
relative prices and preferences for other foods. Interviews with children reveal that
eating whole fresh fruit can be difficult for those with small mouths or braces. Older
girls find whole fruits messy and unattractive to eat.
To determine the effect of offering pre-sliced fruit in schools on selection and intake.
Three of six schools were assigned randomly to serve apples in slices. Three control
schools served apples whole. Selection, consumption, and waste of apples were measured
prior to and during treatment.
Cafeterias in six public middle schools in Wayne County NY in 2011. Participants included
all students who purchased lunch on days when data were collected.
Treatment schools were provided with a standard commercial fruit slicer, and cafeteria
staff members were instructed to use it when students requested apples. Trained researchers
recorded how much of each apple was consumed and how much was wasted in both control
and treatment schools.
Main outcome measures
Daily apple sales, percentage of an apple serving consumed per student, and percentage
of an apple serving wasted per student.
Data were analyzed in 2012. Schools that used fruit slicers to pre-slice fruit increased
average daily apple sales by 71% compared to control schools (p<0.01). The percentage of students who selected apples and ate more than half increased
by 73% (p=0.02) at schools that served pre-sliced fruit, and the percentage that wasted half
or more decreased by 48% (p=0.03).
Sliced fruit is more appealing to children than whole fruit because it is easier and
tidier to eat. This study applies the principle of convenience from behavioral economics
and provides an example of a scalable, low-cost environmental change that promotes
healthy eating and decreases waste.