Food

Going trayless in cafeterias — a mixed outcome

I said in a recent post that there is very little black and white, compared to all the gray of decision-making, and here’s another example.

Brian Wansink and David Just do some interesting research at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, and the finding in this report is that cafeterias, in schools and otherwise, ditch their buffet trays, the victim is often salad at the expense of dessert.

trayOne reason many cafeterias have gone trayless is to reduce energy use (repeatedly cleaning all those trays), to which Just and Wansink add a desire to cut down on food waste: People are less likely to take food they’re not going to eat when it’s easier to carry.

But when they went to a college cafeteria to test what happens when trays are taken away, they found that if forced to choose among making multiple trips, or leaving something at the expense of something else.

Students were more reluctant to take a salad, as 18.3% fewer students took salads on the trayless day than the students on the normal day. Without trays, many patrons tried to compensate for having fewer items on their trays by taking more of the few items they took. Because of this students were less likely to eat all of their entrée (38.8% vs. 85.7%), salad (53.6% vs. 91.7%), or dessert (52.7% vs 90.7%)—though the amount of dessert remaining was insignificant.

So not only did it not cut down on food waste, it altered food choices for the unhealthier. Getting rid of the trays seems like a good idea, from the energy perspective. So this is just another example that few matters are black and white, that the color of most decisions in gray.


"Local" is not "organic," necessarily

Even consumers paying attention to where their food comes from and how it is produced are confused, one conclusion that can be drawn from a study published this month in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review that says that 1 in 5 consumers thinks “local” means “organic.”

I see other examples of this not seldomly, such as when I see “organic cane sugar” on a processed-food label, as if the goodness of organic cancels out the … whatever of processed sugar.


Skewed assumptions from an esteemed research outfit

Quite some time ago, researcher Brian Wansink invited me to periodically stop by the website operated his Food and Brand Lab at Cornell, and I keep forgetting. The upside of my failure is that there’s plenty to peruse, instead of just the one or two conclusions posted since my last visit.


Is it biology? Lifestyle? Why not both (and more)?

I foreshadowed this post last week, when I began my ripostes to Dr. Chris Ochner, a good guy and respected researcher on obesity, a particular interest of mine. I just want to emphasize, again, that this isn’t about Ochner; it’s about ideas that are well evident in public debate. Our interview, and the aftermath, have provided opportunities for further discussion.


Dr. Christopher Ochner: "Food could be considered an addictive substance.”

Welcome to today’s installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and ask for brief answers in return. In 2009, today’s participant became the youngest member of the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons to run an independent research laboratory, and he’s published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles since. He’s often quoted on matters related to obesity, which is how I learned about him. Please remember: “10 words” is a goal, not a rule, so please no counting at home.


10 Words or Less with Dr. Christopher Ochner

Welcome to another version of "10 Words of Less," in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and ask for brief answers in return. Today's participant is a researcher on obesity and related topics on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. He said a few things I think are worth writing about further, but for today, please enjoy the interview. An edited transcript will follow in a separate post, and then maybe a little more after that.


"Fed Up" quotes: Bill Clinton says...

Bill Clinton (provided by Clinton Foundation)Here's the last quote from "Fed Up" I have to offer, but of course I didn't capture them all. See the film when you get the chance, and pick out the quotes that strike home for you. Here's one of several gems from Bill Clinton, who was asked why the government isn't doing more:

"I can't answer that. America is insufficiently alert to the damage we're doing due to excess sugar intake."

Clinton, who has notably gone vegetarian since leaving the White House, looks substantially more healthful in this movie than many might remember him.


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