Promoting Healthy Food Choices for Children

Promoting Healthy Food Choices for Children

Sydney Ganon, Hiroto Iwaoka, Jonathan Mcllroy, and Sarah White
A strategic analysis on how to incorporate behavioral economics into nutrition education programs

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation provided a grant to support this student led project. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Luskin Center for Innovation. Any errors or ommissions are the responsiblity of the authors. 

Rates of childhood obesity in the United States are high, which not only cause health problems later in life, but also have large costs on the economy. Given that childhood fruit and vegetable consumption can have a protective effect against obesity later in life, our policy project focuses on improving this behavior. Our client, Common Threads, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to combat childhood obesity through nutrition, cooking, and education programs. Common Threads is partnering with Dr. Anya Samek, an Associate Research Professor of Economics, to explore tools within the field of behavioral economics to integrate into their existing nutrition education curriculum for 3rd-5th graders called “Small Bites.” The policy question analyzed in this report is:

Which behavioral economic tools are the most effective for Common Threads to use to expand their fight against childhood obesity?

Through our literature review of available policy options, we found that behavioral economic tools were the best suited to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children. Within the realm of behavioral economics, we narrowed our options down to four tools: Reciprocity, Commitment, Defaults, and Framing. Using model interventions from available studies to estimate impact, we evaluated each of these four policy options on four criteria: effect size, duration of effect, cost-effectiveness, and political feasibility.