USDA chooses winning apps to make kids healthy

Wednesday - 9/29/2010, 6:24pm EDT

Amanda Eamich, director of web communications, USDA

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Apps for Healthy Kids is the Agriculture Department's $60,000 challenge to create apps that inspire kids to eat healthy and get moving.

The contest is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to end childhood obesity.

Beyond the goals of encouraging healthy eating and physical activity, the contest contributed to the agency's efforts for open government. USDA made available data it had for 1,000 commonly eaten foods.

"We challenged people to take that data and make a useful game or app," said Amanda Eamich, director of web communications for USDA, on the DorobekINSIDER.

USDA received 95 submissions and announced the winners on Wednesday. Here are some of the winning apps and games:

  • ZisBoomBah is a site that lets children drag and drop foods to create a meal.
  • Work it Off is an app that teaches children the correlation between what they eat and the calories they burn. Users can speak a food into the phone and is given an option to work off the calories.
  • Smash Your Food lets kids virtually smash food to learn how much sugar, salt and oil are in that food.

"We know kids and adults are spending screen time on these games so why not make the information that seeps in through the fun games ... things you can take into the lunch line," Eamich said.

USDA does not traditionally work with developers and designers, but the contest was a "fantastic opportunity" to do outreach to a new community, Eamich said.

Eamich advises other agencies interested in such a project to find partnerships in other agencies and organizations. USDA worked with the First Lady's campaign, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and corporations, including General Electric.

"It's important for folks to understand you don't have to do it alone," she said.