Document Type


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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences


School meals are a primary source of nutrition for many adolescents. Determining factors that influence the selection of various foods can provide insight on strategies to improve students’ cafeteria choices. This evaluation and observation was conducted at three Appalachian high schools to assess the cafeteria environment. The study developed and implemented an assessment tool created using principles of choice architecture and behavioral economics building on the work of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Center). The assessment tool scored eight components of the lunchroom—the exterior, hot serving area, cold serving area, salad bar, beverage area, payment station, dining area and grab-n-go, where a higher score equals healthier components offered. High school (HS) #1 earned 73/128 points (57%), HS #2 earned 69/128 (54%), and HS #3 earned 53/102 (52%). HS #3 did not have a grab-n-go option and the final score was out of 102. Video observation was used to collect data on lunchroom activity during mealtimes. Each school received reports that highlight the results and suggest improvements to raise their score. The scoring tool represents a novel way to assess the health of school lunches, provide insights on how to improve the healthfulness of students’ lunch choice, and improve overall nutrition status.

Source Citation

Olfert, M., Hagedorn, R., Clegg, E., Ackerman, S., & Brown, C. (2019). Choice Architecture in Appalachian High Schools: Evaluating and Improving Cafeteria Environments. Nutrients, 11(1), 147.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

This article received support from the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.

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Nutrition Commons



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