Campaign to end childhood obesity in search of new apps

By Bernie Monegain
10:16 AM

First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday launched the Apps for Healthy Kids competition, the most recent piece of the Let's Move! campaign aimed at ending childhood obesity within a generation.

Run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition challenges software developers, game designers, students and other innovators to develop engaging tools and games that help kids and their parents to eat better and be more physically active.

Kids spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching television or playing with computers, video games or other handheld devices, according to recent surveys.

To take advantage of the reach of digital media even as parents strive to reduce total screen time, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition will offer prizes for the most creative means of using USDA's recently released MyPyramid 1,000 food database to teach kids about the importance of good nutrition and health.

"Maybe you've seen those dance video games or exercise games that families are playing together at home – or ones kids play using their mobile phones or home computers - those are the kinds of games we're talking about," the First Lady said. "We're challenging software and game designers – professionals and amateurs alike – to come up with games that incorporate nutritional information and make healthy living fun."

In addition to encouraging the design of kid-friendly apps, a second element of the challenge will focus on designing creative tools for parents so they can instantly access easy-to-understand nutritional information they can trust when planning meals, at the grocery store, or picking up dinner on the way home from work.

Contestants will compete for $40,000 in cash prizes. The Apps for Healthy Kids challenge is a collaborative initiative of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

Entries must be submitted between March 8, and June 30, 2010.