Project Descriptions

Since 2011, ERS's competitive grants and cooperative agreements program has made awards* to fund research on using behavioral economics and incentives to promote child nutrition and healthy eating.

Using Behavioral Economics and Incentives to Promote Child Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (additional funding)
Dr. David Just
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

The Center facilitates new and innovative research on the application of behavioral economic theory to child nutrition program operations and activities, leading to program improvements that will benefit children's diets and health; broaden social scientist participation in such research; and disseminate research findings to key stakeholder groups, including other researchers, policy and program officials, and the general public.

Grant: $571,000

Long-term Effects of Incentivizing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Dr. Gregory Madden
Utah State University, Logan, UT

This study builds on the results of earlier research, to examine the long-term effects of the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Program, which encourages consumption of fruit and vegetables among elementary schoolchildren. Results released in late September 2011 showed that fruit and vegetable consumption increased by more than 40 percent among schoolchildren when the Food Dudes incentives were in place. This followup study will examine the effect on students' food choices after the Food Dudes Program has been in place for a year in six Utah elementary schools.

Grant: $155,000

Using Nudges and Incentives to Promote Long-Run Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables in Children
Dr. Joseph Price
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

This project examines whether a set of behavioral economics-based interventions implemented in 30 elementary schools in Utah that result in short-term increases in children's healthy food choices also change long-run habits and if so, how long it takes to produce lasting changes. In addition, the project examines the simultaneous effects of multiple small behavioral economics-based changes, to see if simultaneous use results in synergistic effects, crowd-out effects, or even boomerang effects.

Grant: $244,000

Behavioral Economics Based Strategies for Improving Consumption of Healthy Foods Provided as Part of NSLP School Meals
Anastasia Snelling
American University, Washington, DC

This project pilot tests the effectiveness of a behavioral economics strategy that is designed to improve children’s consumption of healthier foods provided as a part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) meals in schools in the District of Columbia and Arlington, VA.

Grant: $100,000

Investigating the Effects of School Menu Choice Options on Student Food Selection
Amit Sharma
Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA

This project examines how students’ selections of healthier options, such as vegetables and fruits, are influenced by the choices presented to them. The research questions are based on behavioral economics theory; the research analysis uses national data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment IV (SNDA IV) that provide information on menu offerings and student selections in a sample of over 800 schools. The study will also incorporate food cost data from the School Food Purchases Study II to assess the cost of preferred choice options.

Grant: $60,000

Incentivizing Healthful Food Purchases by SNAP Recipients
Timothy Beatty
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

This project explores the applicability of various concepts from behavioral economic studies to consumer food-purchasing behavior to develop a set of possible strategies to cue healthier food choices in grocery stores. This project will produce two separate but related outputs. The first is a one day workshop in Washington, DC, bringing together stakeholders from various sectors, including academic researchers in the fields of applied economics, behavioral economics, marketing and other related fields; representatives from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, who oversee the SNAP and SNAP-ed programs; individuals working in the retail food industry, along with those working with other non-government agencies, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Share Our Strength. The second output will be an ERS report summarizing the relevant literature and discussing the possible applicability of various behavioral economic strategies in a grocery store setting.

Grant: $100,000

Setting up for Success: Developing Strategies to Nudge Low-Income Shoppers to Make Healthier Grocery Store Purchases
Collin Payne
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

This project explores the applicability of concepts from behavioral economic studies to consumer food purchasing behavior to expand the knowledge base about the effectiveness of strategies to cue healthier food choices in grocery stores. The emphasis is on low-income shoppers, especially those participating in USDA food assistance programs.  Interventions will be pre-tested using computer-based grocery store simulation experiments, and the most promising interventions will be experimentally tested in partnering grocery stores.

Grant: $125,000

*Award amounts are rounded to the nearest thousand.

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