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Research Letter
October 2012

Can Branding Improve School Lunches?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • 2Department of Marketing, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(10):967-968. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.999

As school food services outsource more of their food preparation, the processed products they offer to schoolchildren are increasingly branded. There is legitimate concern that branding will make more indulgent foods even more attractive.1-3 Conversely, a promising question is whether branding can be used to promote healthier eating.4,5 Could branding more dramatically improve the attractiveness of less exciting—but healthier—foods?

After obtaining institutional review board approval at Cornell University and parental consent, 208 children (99 female) ranging from 8 to 11 years old were recruited from 7 ethnically and economically diverse schools in suburban and rural upstate New York. The study occurred during lunchtime on 5 consecutive days at each location. After selecting their lunch, children were individually offered an opportunity to select either an apple or a cookie. In total, there were 615 observations included in the analysis after eliminating absentee students, missing data, or miscoded observations.