July 28, 2010

Boulder Start-Up Leads First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Apps for Healthy Kids” Competition. ~ Sandra Henderson

Pick Chow!

As part of her Let’s Move campaign, the First Lady has launched a nationwide “Apps for Healthy Kids” competition. The contest challenges start-ups and software developers to create applications that will help children eat healthier and be physically active.

A frontrunner in the competition’s tools category is ZisBoomBah’s Pick Chow! application. The Boulder-based start-up strives to arm children and parents with the truth about the food they eat every day.

How does it work? ZisBoomBah flips conventional wisdom by shifting some of the mealtime responsibility to kids. Dragging and dropping different foods onto their virtual plate, kids are guided by the “Add It Up!” meters and a 5-star meal rating system that illustrates the nutritional quality of their meal.

And there’s a bonus for parents.  Once a child completes a meal, they are able to send their parents the dinner plans with the click of a button.  Parents in turn receive an email with the child’s menu, a shopping list, recipes, coupons and a personalized message that they can respond to.

“Pick Chow offers kids a voice and they love it!” says ZisBoomBah founder Karen Laszlo. “We empower them to make healthy choices and then reinforce their decisions by sharing meals with their parents.”

Laszlo’s team built Pick Chow based on the USDA Nutrition Dataset, which was one of the competition’s toughest requirements. What’s more, Apps for Healthy Kids wanted tools that “empower users to access, visualize, sort, mash, track, or otherwise better understand data in ways that will inform user behavior” according to their website. Leveraging innovative online technology, ZisBoomBah does just that. So it is not surprising that this Apps for Healthy Kids finalist has high hopes to be the winning application to help the First Lady achieve her goal of ending the childhood obesity epidemic within one generation.

$60,000 in prizes will go to the contestants with the most votes by August 14, 2010. In addition to an expert judging panel, the public can vote at appsforhealthykids.com.

ZisBoomBah would use the prize money to create a teachers’ section on their site to support nutrition education in school. “We continue to enhance our site and are excited First Lady Michelle Obama selected our Pick Chow application to be a finalist,” says co-founder Mike Carcaise, “but in the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about helping the kids.”

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