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dmi:Design Value Award Winner




SnackGarden: Healthy Eating for Youth

The Integrated Product Design Master's Programs at University of Pennsylvania + Rebel Ventures + The Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative


In an effort to address the health inequalities that stem from poverty In Philadelphia, schools there are working to encourage kids to try healthy foods so they’ll develop healthy preferences. Research has shown that kids need to taste new fruits and vegetables multiple times before they begin to enjoy eating them- so developing a fun, integrated nutrition education plan is key to nurturing healthy habits.

In 2013 the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, a program focused on providing access to healthy foods in schools, approached the University of Pennsylvania’s Integrated Product Design (IPD) program to design a serving plate that would make the tasting experience more fun and engaging for kids. IPD students began with user research and ideation, creating several options. They prototyped the leading designs, tested them with middle school students in West Philadelphia, and the top design was selected. Students loved the plates.

To build on this success, the IPD team secured funding to produce 6000 plates. Then they collaborated to brand the plates with Rebel Ventures a student group that develops and distributes healthy snacks. In 2015 SnackGarden was born! Once the plates were manufactured, the teams once again worked with Rebel Ventures to develop go to market strategies. Pilots included distributing SnackGarden plates to a farmers market, a co-op grocery store, and directly to nutrition educators. Direct to educators proved to be the most successful way to get the most kids to try new foods. To date, SnackGarden plates have been distributed to several non-profit organizations and four elementary schools to be used in tasting programs. The plates available for free to teachers in other locations.

In countless elementary school classrooms, SnackGarden plates get kids excited about tasting fresh fruits and vegetables. And the size and shape of the plate encourages sharing -- helping create a collaborative environment in the classroom. While this project was undertaken with a priority on social impact, the value of exposing more school children to healthy fruits and vegetables, and their adoption of healthier eating habits, is likely to have financial value in terms of lower health care costs over the long term.

Addressing a systemic public health challenge through a physical product is a complex undertaking requiring collaboration between individuals with a range of expertise. This work is an excellent example of design-led change in the community, involving collaboration on complex challenges with multiple stakeholders in a very crowded public policy and service delivery space.

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