The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a 4 year $800,000 grant back in 2006 to Dr Susan Evans and Dr Peter Clarke at the University of Southern California to figure out how to help those who go to food pantries consume more fruits and vegetables. They developed a tool called “Quick! Help for Meals,” a computer system provided to food pantries that used message tailoring to create customized booklets of recipes and food-use tips, individually designed for each household's needs and preferences. While successful, by the time the initial grant ended, the practice of distributing printed information was being replaced more frequently by digital options. While several food pantries and banks supply supplemental resources to clients, many in collaboration with Extension programs at Land-grant Universities, Evans and Clarke set out to develop a more tech-savvy approach: putting healthy recipes in the palm of clients’ hands through their smart device.
Research shows that 76% of adults whose income is less than $30,000 per year own a smartphone, and for many, that smartphone is their access to the internet. Evans and Clarke decided to develop a mobile app that allows users to select the ingredients they have available and create a virtual cookbook of healthy recipes. The idea became reality with a five-year, $1.3 million AFRI award from NIFA in 2012. Working with pantry clients, chefs and a culinary school, the team developed VeggieBook, an app with more than 250 vegetable-based recipes, along with nearly 80 Secrets to Better Eating – general tips about more nutritious eating and strategies for budget-wise food shopping. Innovation with a purpose that is measurable and will make a difference. Thank you both.