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Next Federal Funding Frenzy: Federal-University Food Police Partnership

October 17, 2010

USDA funds $2 million to Cornell University to study school meal choices

Hoping to capitalize on a field of study based on social psychology and economics, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $2 million to university researchers exploring ways to influence healthy food choices in school cafeterias.

The money will create the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and fund 14 pilot projects in 11 states, according to an Oct. 12 USDA news release.

The projects will offer incentives to students in the USDA’s child nutrition programs to choose more fruit and vegetables. Nationwide, more than 31 million children eat lunch and about 11 million eat breakfast daily in the programs.

“Findings from this emerging field of research — behavioral economics — could lead to significant improvements in the diets of millions of children across America,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release.

David Just and Brian Wansink will head up the Cornell effort and coordinate research.

This is scary.  If you watch the video from Duke University, you’ll see that economic theory is based on people behaving rationally and measuring costs versus benefits where benefit includes enjoyment.  With behavioral economics its third persons looking in and seeing where people aren’t behaving rationally and trying to fix your behavior for you into what they perceive to be rational.

Here’s the problem, lets say I love to play the guitar, and I save up money for a long time to buy a guitar, but the guitar is very expensive compared to my income.  Someone from Cornell or Duke University might say — you shouldn’t buy that very expensive guitar, you should buy a less expensive guitar and put the rest of the money into savings.  But I want the guitar, and the enjoyment from the guitar is worth more to me than putting my money in savings.  In behavioral economics Duke University and Cornell University are going to try to nudge (push, force, coerce) me into buying a less expensive guitar.  Frankly its none of Duke University’s or Cornell University’s business.

Frankly, I don’t even know why any of these studies are necessary. Now the USDA doesn’t know what is good food.  The public pays for the breakfasts and lunches.  There’s nothing forcing the government to feed students white bread and processed meat.  If the government doesn’t want fat kids, don’t offer up a regular diet of brownies, cookies, muffins, donuts and ice cream on taxpayer money.  Why are taxpayers paying Cornell  University $2 million dollars for advice any mom can give you for free is mind boggling.

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