How Google Could Make Students Actually Want To Eat Healthy

If you have ever been in a school cafeteria, you know the choices usually range from inedible to shoe scrapings. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s hard to deny that students are not exactly being steered towards healthier or even good-tasting foods on a regular basis. There is no money to offer better food and certainly no reason for students to eat better. What’s a school to do?

Follow The Google Method.

A friend of mine started working at Google yesterday and described the ‘Noogler’s Lunch’ (Noogler = New+Googler). It consists of color-coded lines, trays, and food. Granted the food is free and plentiful, but my friend actually said he chose the healthiest options mostly due to peer pressure and self-satisfaction. In other words, he didn’t want to appear to be a glutton and didn’t want to feel guilty for eating the more unhealthy items.

What if this color-coding system were employed in schools? It wouldn’t cost very much; just the cost of colored trays and / or food containers. There could even be a reward system for students who eat the healthier lunches every day of the week. Incentives work for students, especially if they let students feel superior to classmates.

At Google, they spend about $7,500 a year on food per employee. While this is much more than is spent on an average student in an American public school, it doesn’t mean this color-coding system is not possible.

How Would It Work?

At Google, there is a color-coded system of trays (in Google colors of course) and containers that are used at meals. At a school, the cafeteria could have trays and containers that are in the school’s colors or better yet, in the colors of a stop light:

  • GREEN: The healthiest food options available (salads, smoothies, vegetarian offerings)
  • YELLOW: Average meals that feature a standard serving of nutrition, salt, and carbs (pasta dishes, certain sandwiches, some wraps)
  • RED: Food that is more than the recommended daily allowance of nutrition, fat, salt, and carbs (fried food, french fries, hamburgers, etc.)

Click To Enlarge (iPhone pictures, you’ve been warned)

The key to making students not always reach for the RED items would be to offer incentives. This can be accomplished by tracking what students eat using a simple system. By making a big poster with student names on it, students can use a green, yellow, or red pen to mark off which colored items they ate that day. If a student eats 4 green dishes a week, they could have their name read aloud during morning announcements, be given a coupon for cafeteria food, entered into a raffle for an iPod, or some other item. (Use your imagination!)

Think this method would work? Is it not worth the effort? Let us know on Twitter by including @edudemic in your tweet!