C&I professor developing app that shows kids how their food choices affect planet

by Sarah McColl   /   Jun 06, 2016

Food for Thought app

Future iteration of Food for Thought app could include information about food waste

In a recent experiment for her Food for Thought app, Emma Mercier found out that a group of eighth-grade boys considered steak, bacon, and burgers their favorite things to eat.

Not exactly an earth-shattering discovery by the assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.

What’s more noteworthy to society at large is the app under development, which dynamically charts the nutritional data and carbon footprint for each food item and assembles the overall meal as a plate.

The app dynamically charts the nutritional data and carbon footprint for each food item and assembles the meal.

Noting that burgers are “the worst thing in the world” when it comes to our carbon footprint—with studies done to back her up—Mercier said the boys’ food choices ultimately have a big impact on the world’s climate.

Climate change is a strong element of the new science standards for K-12, and Mercier’s Food for Thought app takes the relevant nutritional numbers and puts them in context with two goals: to make kids aware of the causes and impacts of climate change and to help them read and make sense of data in their decision-making process.

“Every kid has an opinion about food in a way that I don’t think all the other things we talked about were relevant to them,” she said. “We wanted to highlight something that they have direct experiences of,” and technology, she added, has a way of stirring everyone’s enthusiasm.

“One of the interesting things about technology is that it does allow kids who wouldn’t necessarily engage to engage, so it seemed to be equalizing,” she said. “The visual format, the fact that it’s more interactive, that it’s collaborative—there’s a lot of reasons why kids who may not be overly participatory get into it.”

Read more about this app and a future iteration of it in an article by Sarah McColl of the website takepart.