The Role of Tastings and Simple Marketing Tools in Children's Acceptance of Healthy, Plant-based Entrées
Narang, Anjali Urvashi
A field study was conducted in four public elementary schools in New York (NY) in order to evaluate the impact of simple, school-based interventions on children’s acceptance of healthy, plant-based entrées. In partnership with a nonprofit called the Coalition for Healthy School Food, this study targeted two entrées under the brand of Cool School Food (CSF): Ms. Patel’s Rajma ("Rajma") and West African Beans & Greens (WABG). Children’s choice, consumption, knowledge and perceptions of CSF are used as indicators of acceptance, with choice or demand being the primary focus. The interventions were implemented on a school-wide basis and consisted of: samples offered in the lunch line of the weekly CSF special; recipe-specific morning announcements; and recipe-specific posters and signs placed at children’s eye-level around the cafeteria and at the lunch line. A differences-in-differences research design is used to identify the interventions’ impact on children’s acceptance. In this set-up, treatment status is assigned to two schools and control status is assigned to the other two schools. Observational and pre-post survey data is collected in all four schools. The observational dataset consists of 3,319 trays or child-days. Three-hundred ninety-eight students are represented in the survey dataset, 174 of which took both the pre- and post-survey. The interventions evaluated in this study did not conclusively demonstrate an effect on selection or consumption of Cool School Food as a whole. They were, however, found to clearly and positively impact correlates of demand, like knowledge, taste exposure through sampling and liking among new consumers of CSF, as well as demand for Rajma upon replication of the interventions. Specifically, the interventions had a positive but statistically insignificant impact on the probability of selecting CSF, increasing it by 5.2%, which is roughly equivalent to an additional 10 CSF meals selected for a school lunch population of 200 students. Taking a closer look, the second round of interventions for Rajma were found to significantly increase the probability of selecting Rajma by 6.5%. The interventions were also found to significantly increase the probability of affirmatively knowing what CSF, Rajma, and WABG is by 39.4%, 42.8% and 32.4%, respectively. There is moreover evidence that the interventions led more students to try CSF and improved attitudes toward CSF among those who had not tried it prior to the study. Specifically, the interventions increased the probability of sampling Rajma and WABG during the intervention period by 29.5% and 25.5%, respectively. There are consistently strong entrée effects on the various indicators of acceptance used. These findings suggest that the effectiveness of simple marketing tools like tastings, recipe-specific announcements, and posters and signs may depend on the entrée targeted and the number of replications of the interventions, which may produce larger and more pronounced effects if sustained over time. All in all, the interventions evaluated show promise for future use and study, and this research contributes to our understanding of children’s acceptance of healthy, plant-based entrées. The acceptance of these kinds of foods will shape what kind of role their increased consumption can have in improving human and environmental health, as well as whether they can have a role at all.
Marketing; Economics; Agriculture economics; entrée; healthy; plant-based; school lunch; Health sciences; Children
Just, David R.
Applied Economics and Management
M.S., Applied Economics and Management
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis