Technology and Design Innovation for School Lunch

University of California (UC), Berkeley logo

University of California (UC), Berkeley




Childhood Obesity


Behavioral: Staff wellness curriculum
Behavioral: SmartMeal application
Behavioral: Distributed points of sale

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This study will evaluate an innovative school lunch intervention that is designed to increase school meal participation and improve dietary intake among middle and high school students.

Full description

Improving dietary intake among low-income youth is critical to reducing obesity, and schools are arguably the most important system in which to intervene. In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to better align school meal standards with the Dietary Guidelines, making school meals a nutritious option for students. Increasing participation in the school meal program, therefore, especially among low-income youth, has the potential to improve dietary intake among students and ultimately reduce childhood obesity. Over three school years, the University of California (Berkeley's School of Public Health and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Nutrition Policy Institute) will evaluate an innovative, student-centered school-lunch intervention to increase school lunch participation and improve dietary intake among low-income middle and high school students. The project will be conducted in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), a large and diverse urban district serving over 32,000 students (70% of total) eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The intervention, developed in partnership with the global design firm IDEO, aims to promote healthier habits by leveraging principals of behavior economics. The intervention involves the following three components: 1) a smartphone application (SmartMeal) that allows students to pre-order school lunches, receive nutrition information about school lunch options, and provide feedback about meals to food service staff, 2) distributed points of sale for school meals, achieved through the addition of mobile food carts and vending machines, and 3) a staff wellness curriculum that encourages staff to promote school meals and model healthful eating behaviors to students.


27,406 patients




Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • All 7th-10th grade students at participating schools are eligible to participate in the student survey
  • All 6th-12th grade students who eat the school lunch are eligible to participate in plate waste data collection
  • All 7th-10th grade teachers are eligible to participate in the teacher survey

Exclusion criteria

  • There are no exclusion criteria

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

27,406 participants in 2 patient groups

School lunch intervention
Experimental group
Intervention schools (6 middle and 6 high) will receive the complete school lunch intervention for two school years.
Behavioral: Distributed points of sale
Behavioral: SmartMeal application
Behavioral: Staff wellness curriculum
School lunch control
No Intervention group
Control schools (6 middle and 6 high) will not receive the school lunch intervention for two school years. Lunch delivery will proceed as normal.

Trial contacts and locations



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