Health Policy

Building Relationships and Capacity in Rural Lunchrooms: Lessons from a Process Evaluation of a Pilot Behavioral Economics-Based Intervention

Askelson, N.M.; Meier, C.; Brady, P.; Scheidel, C.; Delger, P.


We aimed to describe the successes and challenges of implementing a pilot program by working with students and food service staff in four rural high schools to encourage healthy eating among rural adolescents. The pilot program engaged students and school food service directors (FSDs) in identifying and making changes to the school lunchroom environment based on behavioral economics. As part of a multi-method evaluation, we conducted interviews with FSDs and staff, held focus groups with students, and recorded our observations as researchers. The lessons learned highlighted the importance of (1) the FSD's role in the school, (2) a faculty partner involved in the project, (3) the characteristics of the student group, and (4) setting realistic goals for the students. Our findings can guide future interventions designed to improve food choices in school lunchrooms and increase adolescents' fruit and vegetable consumption.