App encourages kids to pick eco-friendly meals

Scientists are developing a computer application that may encourage kids to choose eco-friendly meals instead of fast foods.

The application introduces school students to the topic of climate change and showing them how their dietary choices affect the planet.

The Food for Thought app displays a plate that students fill by touching the computer screen and dragging food selections onto the plate.

As students create a meal, the app graphically tallies the nutritional data and carbon footprint of each food item and with the overall meal, such as the amount of calories in a salad and the amount of water used in growing the lettuce.

“There are two learning goals here: Make kids aware of the causes and impacts of climate change, and help them become data literate ¬ that is, knowledgeable consumers of the media,” said Emma Mercier, professor at University of Illinois in US.

The capstone activity of the nine-day curriculum was a visit to the Illinois Digital Ecologies and Learning Laboratory (IDEALL), where students used the app on the lab’s 55-inch multi-touch tabletop computer screens.

By entering information from food diaries they had kept over the previous weekend, the students were able to view the carbon footprints associated with their food intake.

They also were challenged to create a meal that had the least impact on the environment yet still provided sufficient calories.