Small Prizes Improve Food Selection in a School Cafeteria Without Increasing Waste

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We recently demonstrated that small prizes given for a “Power Plate” (plain fat-free milk, entrée, fruit and vegetable) can be used in an elementary school cafeteria to increase healthful food selection by over 300%. The purpose of this study was to measure changes in food waste when the Power Plate (PP) program is implemented. The PP intervention was conducted at an inner-city elementary school. Emoticons were placed next to the preferred foods and children were given a small prize if they selected the PP. Data were obtained by observation and cash register receipts. The trays of 111 students before the intervention and 96 after were examined for content and waste. PP selection increased from 2% to 73% (P < .001). There was no significant change in waste. We conclude that small prizes as an incentive for better food selection does not lead to an increase food waste.

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