Uncommon Act of Design: The Secret of Getting Kids to Eat Veggies? Move the Salad Bar

A new study out of Cornell produces bigger results than any food revolution or food-policy change could hope for.

Lately, Jamie Oliver's become a saint in his quest to change our attitudes towards food. And the White House and Michelle Obama have been flogging the idea of local produce, while making noise about changes in food policy, which gives woefully sums to big corn and red-meat farmers and contributes to making us fat.

But what if getting kids to eat more veggies is simpler than that? Like, waaaaaay simpler?

Laura Smith, a researcher at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, has discovered that simply changing the placement of a middle school's salad bar can cause a spike in veggie consumption. 

What would your guess be on that spike? 15% 25%? 50%?

Try 250-300%. That's not a typo.

Smith basically discovered what Sizzler's known for decades. Instead of relegating the salad bar to the wall, she moved it four feet, so that it's in front of the cash registers. (As far as Sizzler is concerned, note that it's more profitable to fill people up on veggies, since they're cheaper and higher margin than steaks.)

"By the end of the year, this even led to 6% more kids eating school lunches," Smith said. "It's basic behavioral economics. We made it easier for them to make the right choice."

That, of course, opens up a fat opportunity for architects and designers: You can make people healthier simply by redesigning cafeterias, so that healthier options are easier to access and more prominent — not to mention, as we previously reported, turning corridors into inviting, creative spaces. Now get to work!