Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Animal and Nutritional Sciences

Committee Chair

Melissa Olfert

Committee Co-Chair

Cheryl Brown

Committee Member

Cecil Pollard


The objective of the Cafe Nudge Project was to assess the cafeteria environment and the flow of students through the lunch-line to determine characteristics that could be enhanced to encourage healthy food choices in three Appalachian high schools. The Center for Behavioral Economics and Child Nutrition Program (BEN Center) has collectively conducted prior research on this topic and has coined the term "Smarter Lunchrooms Movement" for improving cafeteria environments. These improvements included increased fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, increased consumption of low-fat white milk, and decreased consumption of high-fat and high-calorie foods. This study was a two-part observation. In the first part, the cafeteria was videotaped to observe how students move through the serving areas. Each site was given three different scores when referring to the video component of the project. In the second part, an assessment tool was created from adapting research from the BEN Center on Smarter Lunchrooms. NudgeSAT (Nudge Student Assessment Tool) was developed and was composed of 6 different scoring categories that according to BEN make up a smarter lunchroom. Eight components using auditor interpretation of the exterior, hot serving area, cold serving area, salad bar, beverage area, payment station, dining area and grab-n-go (only 2 sites had this option) were identified with a score (higher score equals more healthier components offered). High School (HS) #1 earned 73/128 points (57%), High School #2 earned 69/128 points (54%) and High School #3 earned 53/102 (52%). Since High School #3 did not have a grab and go option the final score was out of 102. Each school had a summary report based on recommendations identified for improvement to score higher. HS #1 and HS #2 received low scores in the serving areas of the cafeteria, in the dining area, and the grab and go section. HS #2 also received low scores in the beverage and payment stations. HS #3 received a much lower score compared to HS #1 and HS #2 because it did not have a grab and go section. The NudgeSAT evaluation tool to understand choice architecture is one more novel way to assess the lunchroom environment to encourage smarter lunchroom choices. The long-term impact of adjusting small changes in a cafeteria environment may translate into healthier food choices by students, which leads to improvement in nutritional status and health profiles of students utilizing the National School Lunch Program.