A quick antidote to the Baconator post: Tim Marklein at Weber Shandwick sent me an article about a cool competition now underway in which GE, the USDA and Michelle Obama have created a challenge to motivate American entrepreneurs, software developers, the public, and students to create an on-line game or tool that can use “fun” to teach kids and/or their parents about how to get kids to exercise and eat healthy. I have to admit–kind of a cool idea that manages to combine health and entrepreneurship. I like it.
I’ll pause for a moment to allow you to digest the irony that today’s method for engaging kids in exercise and healthy eating is to keep the kid sitting in front of their screen even longer. The sound of a kid’s joy long ago metamorphosed from “Wheeeeeeee!” to “Wii!”
Anyhow, the Apps for Healthy Kids challenge was to create either:
- Games that educate through engaging the user in an entertaining experience, or
- “Tools” that empower users to access, visualize, sort, mash, track, or otherwise better understand data in ways that will inform user behavior.
In so doing, the develop must use some basic USDA data about recommended food habits and must incorporate at least one of the following:
- Teaching kids to eat more whole grains
- Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
- Focusing on consuming more low- or non-fat milk
- Choosing lean sources of protein (meat and beans)
- Making food group education fun
- Understanding calories
- Increasing foods with high nutrition value and decreasing amounts of solid fats and added sugars (“extra” calories), and decreasing amounts of sodium
- Identifying and consuming proper portion size
- Being more physically active
- Balancing physical activity and food intake
The competition is now in the reviewing/voting stage. 95 games were deemed eligible for the final prizes, which include being honored at the White House and some cold hard cash. Winners are discouraged from using their cash to purchase Baconators.
The 95 finalists were displayed at the Games for Health conference, a software developers conference recently held in multiple cities, and can be seen on line by clicking HERE. The games will be judged by a list of people that includes Apple founder Steve Wozniak; Michael Levine, Executive Director of the Sesame Street Workshop; guys from Zynga, LucasArts, Google and a variety of others; it is, mercifully, not dominated by government policy wonks. Kids feed their input into the process at the official website or by casting an on-line vote at Whyville, a virtual world for tweens (kind of like Second Life but with lots of eye rolling and an unhealthy obsession with the Twilight Series). Final judging and the end of voting will take place August 14th.
I perused the list of 95 applicants and their vote status and it an interesting assortment of ideas.
Currently number one with a bullet is called Food Buster, which is described as “a game show that asks you to carefully stack food items that don’t break our scale. For each round you’ll try to find foods with the fewest calories, least added sugar, and least amount of saturated fat. The fewer the calories, the more points you’ll get. When you’re done, you can learn about all of the food items you had available, complete with personalized results on how much exercise it would take to burn off each item. Welcome to the Food Buster game show!” Cute idea, a little scary to further foster our current game show culture featuring obligatory big-haired game show host, but cute.
Among the lowest vote-getting ideas so far is one wild and crazy entry called: Food-Fueled Bio-Batteries: How Nutritional Recharging “Makes it Rain” in the Mitochondrial Matrix. Seriously. I can hear 7 year olds everywhere saying, “WTF?” I couldn’t get past the name to learn about what it actually is. Maybe it just suffers from poor marketing.
Mercifully, none of the games are called “Conquer Mount Baconator”.
Anyway, I like this idea of fostering both entrepreneurial spirit and the creation of real products and services that have a known appeal (games) to kids for a noble and important cause. Hopefully it will turn virtual exercise into some actual physical activity and be the scourge of Baconator lovers everywhere.