How many more apples can a school cafeteria sell if the fruit is displayed in an attractive basket and placed in a well-lit area?
That's the sort of question researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab are exploring as part of their Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative—an effort to discover and share low-cost changes that can be made in lunchrooms to subtly guide smarter food choices.
Led by Professor Brian Wansink, the researchers observed a 58 percent increase in fresh fruit sales at one Upstate New York school simply by moving the fruit from a stainless steel tray and into a basket lit by an ordinary desk lamp.
Wansink will present these findings and others at the Food for Your Whole Life Health Symposium on June 6-7 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.
"The best solution is often the simplest one," Wansink explained. "Rather than penalizing a less healthy food choice, we just made the healthier item much more likely to be noticed and chosen."
Later in the week, Wansink—along with colleagues David Just and Mitsuru Shimizu—will deliver presentations at a two-day Consumer Camp event on the Cornell University campus on June 10-11.
While Thursday's proceedings are geared toward school nutrition professionals and require pre-registration, Friday's sessions are free and open to the public.
"On Friday, we'll be presenting various studies and sharing strategies people can follow to help combat 'mindless eating.' It's a neat way to wrap up the academic year," Wansink added.
Explore further: Will the Affordable Care Act eliminate health disparities?