Nudging College Kids to Eat Less

How do you get college freshman to avoid that first-term weight-gain known as “the Freshman 25?” What’s the right cafeteria policy? How do you balance making sure every student gets enough to meet his or her needs, without overfeeding them? How do you balance their right to choose against their natural human tendency to overeat in the face of plenty?

For one suggestion, see this story by Jenna Johnson, for the Washington Post: Cafeteria trays vanishing from colleges in effort to save food

[At Virginia Tech], Students loaded their trays with Belgian waffles, brick-oven-baked pizza, falafel, Brazilian skewered meat, pad Thai, fruit juice concoctions and elaborate desserts – so much food that even the biggest of guys with the biggest of appetites could not always clean their plates.

As food service workers watched thousands of pounds of food go to waste, the university decided to make a move increasingly common at higher-education institutions nationwide: It got rid of cafeteria trays….

This is a classic example of what Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein refer to as a nudge, in their book by that name. Students aren’t being forced to eat less. Their freedom of choice isn’t being taken away. They’re just being nudged.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
This entry was posted in choice, diets, health, public policy, teens. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Nudging College Kids to Eat Less

  1. I think this is a very important issue, as a student in an International Agriculture program and coming from a country currently in development, where I have seen poverty and hunger in rural communities, being a part-time worker in a University Stadium in Oklahoma has made me very concerned with food waste. I have noticed that the football and basketball players that are having meals at the stadium, provided by their scholarships, are wasting incredible amounts of food without even realizing their actions. I wonder if going “tray less” would also be a good option for buffet style dinning in Universities. In the University dining facilities one does not find trays and less food is typically wasted. But another way to go is to try to make students aware and conscious of the impact of food waste on the community in general.

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