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Serious Games Helping Kids Understand Food Labels

Whyville and Numedeon (please find also Serious Games Helping Children To Cope With Stress)  have just announced a new project with the U.S. FDA focused on helping kids better understand food labels.  This project will be launching shortly in Whyville. 

FDA Consumer and School-Based Nutrition Education Programs 

Dr. Mary Poos, Deputy Director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, provided an overview of FDA’s nutrition education initiatives, which include education programs, and Serious Games. The purpose of these efforts is to educate consumers to use the Nutrition Facts Label and other package information to develop lifelong healthful nutrition practices (approval of minutes from the June 7, 2012 NCC meeting).

Dr. Poos described FDA’s two primary education programs:  

The Spot the Block program, a teen-targeted health promotion campaign created to help combat childhood obesity by encouraging “teens” (ages 9 to 13) to use the Nutrition Facts Label to make healthful food choices. In addition to teen activities there are also tips for parents and materials to help them talk to their kids about the Nutrition Facts Label

Make Your Calories Count is a Web-based interactive learning program designed to help consumers use the Nutrition Facts Label to manage caloric intake and weight while planning a healthful diet. The website features several on-line training modules, transcripts, and materials that can be downloaded.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, another resource will soon be available through a partnership with Whyville, a virtual world for children, where children can relate information on the Nutrition Facts Label to health and wellness through Serious Games.

Dr. Poos also detailed FDA’s school-based education program that builds on a 12-year partnership with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The goals of this program are to improve student literacy related to nutrition, teach children about the food label to help them make healthier food choices, and to help combat childhood obesity using school-based education about nutrition. This program aims to educate teachers about the science of nutrition and food safety, through workshops and online tutorials, and to provide teachers with lesson plans and activities to use in their classrooms. 

Additional partners include the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Association of Middle Level Education, the National School Board Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

The Nutrition Crisis

·         1 in 6 children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese, placing them at elevated risk for diabetes and heart disease. Worse yet, this number is on the rise. At the root of this crisis is poor nutrition due to unhealthy eating habits, which can lead to behavioral and cognitive problems that impact learning.
·         Prevalence of obesity in children 6-11 has tripled since the 1970s; 35% of children are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
— Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
·         40% of children go to school without breakfast
— Dairy Council of California
·         75% of adolescents fail to meet their daily requirement for calcium
— US Department of Agriculture

About Whyville

Whyville is the premiere educational virtual world for children, embedding simulationbased learning in an engaging and safe collaborative gaming environment. 

For thirteen years, the site has successfully created an environment that engages its "citizens" to learn about life, while having fun. In Whyville, kids play, socialize, compete, learn, design, eat, dance, govern and much more. 

Numedeon Inc., the parent company of Whyville, was founded by scientists from the California Institute of Technology who combined research expertise in learning and education with advanced simulation and virtual world technology to harness the power of the Internet to engage young learners.