Students Paying for Lunch with Credit Often Choose Unhealthy Foods

Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Updated: July 24, 2014 publishes personal finance studies on the latest trends in the subprime marketplace. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

A recent study in the journal Obesity seems to show a relationship between students eating habits and the way they pay for school meals.

According to behavioral economists at Cornell University, kids who use debit or credit cards tend to choose foods that are less healthy than those who use cash to pay for their meals.

The study went on to show kids are more than three times as likely to buy vegetables when paying cash and also eat around 10 percent fewer calories.

Brian Wansink and David Just monitored more than 2,300 students from first to 12th grade at 287 schools.

The findings of the study were interesting, but the extrapolations of the authors were even more surprising.

When paying for anything with a debit or credit card, financial consequences are postponed to a future time.

“Kids are three times as likely to

buy vegetables when paying cash.”

The study says psychologically this postponement of consequences extends to future food consequences as well.

Students seem to make a subconscious calculation that the consequences of food choices extend far out into the future, making their current decisions less important.

Given the increasing problems with obesity in our society, the Cornell study recommends schools make it more difficult for students to use debit or credit cards for purchasing school lunches.

An alternative is to only allow credit and debit purchases for healthy foods and require cash payments for sweets and dessert foods.

While this study is likely to cause plenty of debate, it is definitely a discussion worth having.