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The Daily Tar Heel

Pilot program combines texting and eating

A new program being implemented at Chapel Hill High School will combine two of students’ favorite activities: texting and eating.

Taste Texting — a program being piloted at Chapel Hill High School by UNC researchers and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools — will allow students to text in their lunch orders the night before or in the morning.

A website will also be available for students to use for ordering lunch.

The program will make fresh, healthy meals available for pre-order and pick up at an express kiosk located apart from the main cafeteria.

According to the proposal, Taste Texting aims to allow “students to skip lengthy lunch lines, avoid the temptation of energy dense foods, and enjoy more of their lunch hour with friends.”

“They did a study that showed kids are making decisions about what to eat based on peer pressure,” said Liz Cartano, CHCCS’s director of child nutrition.

“We want to see if kids will make different food choices on their own, when they’re not hungry and based on the time of day.”

Lunch options will include sandwiches, salads and wraps. The program is set to launch in mid-April.

Meals will also be available to students who receive free and reduced lunch.

Researchers also hope the program will increase participation in school lunch, improve profitability and efficiency, encourage students to eat better and ease cafeteria congestion.

Chapel Hill High School Student Body Vice President Emma Williams said she thinks the program will be popular among students who buy lunch on campus.

“I don’t think it will encourage more people to buy student lunch though,” Williams said, “because seniors will go off (campus) and those that bring their lunch will continue to do so.

“However, those that already buy lunch will enjoy the convenience of being able to text in their order for a healthy option and it will take less time.”

Because the program is a pilot, researchers hope questions about the program’s logistics will be answered with its implementation.

Cartano said the biggest program cost was the development of the technology.

The program is being funded by a $40,000 grant to UNC from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics, which received the money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cartano said there are additional labor costs that will occur with the implementation of the program.

“We won’t know the cost until the kids start texting; we don’t know how many kids are going to participate,” she said.

Chartwells is the food provider for CHCCS and serves more than 500 school districts nationwide.

“If the project goes well and Taste Texting really works for Chartwells, they could not only keep using it at (Chapel Hill High School), but also use it with any of their other school contracts,” said Billie Karel, a Nutrition Masters candidate at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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