Not long ago, Nutritionist Marta De Wulf walked into an elementary classroom to teach children about food. But to her surprise when she was finished, one second grader lifted up his shirt and pointed to his stomach and said in front of his classmates, “Now I know why I have this!” That day was a game changer. And in that moment, Marta walked out of that school with a whole new life mission: to change the way America eats.
Today, one-quarter of the children in the U.S. are overweight and the rate is projected to continue to rise until 2030. Childhood obesity often translates into a life-long battle with diets that fail because people do not understand the fundamentals of good nutrition. This is not surprising – one recent study listed over 84 registered diets for people to choose from in the U.S. alone.
With obesity affecting Americans everywhere — regardless of age, socio-economic status, ethnicity or gender — Marta and her husband Frederic De Wulf made the life-changing decision to plow their vast array of talents and experience into a whole new venture, a company they founded called Food N’ Me, today based in Bellevue, Washington. With Marta’s 20 years of experience in Nutrition, and husband Frederic’s extensive background in technology (having served as a former executive at Microsoft), the couple has forged ahead and made tremendous strides in teaching children and families about food. Their goal: Be a positive voice. Create awareness about food and nutrition. Change behavior around eating. Deliver information that’s educational and fun for children. Empower families to eat well.
Today, the De Wulfs see themselves as “agents of change” and have earned top honors from The White House. They have leveraged technology effectively in their mission – using the sensorial, kinesthetic and auditory capabilities of embedded games to appeal to the different ways in which children learn. Their newly-launched educational game Smash Your Food teaches children and families to understand the nutritional content of everyday food. As they navigate the game, children learn — as they literally smash ooey, gooey foods, like French fries, burgers and sodas — how much sugar, salt and oil is contained in these commonly-abused foods. A top winner of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign’s “Best Apps for Healthy Kids”, Smash Your Food is now available for download on the iPad and will soon be available for the iPhone.
What began as a rewarding experience of teaching nutrition to 3,000 school children has become an opportunity that has enabled Marta to gain valuable insights into what motivates children and how to empower them through personalized communication. As a result, Smash Your Food provides informative, real-time, personalized health tips to children and their parents that are delivered via email. The game has been deployed in select schools where results have been tremendously encouraging. For example, kids using Smash Your Food have voluntarily demonstrated behavior changes like selecting fruit rather than brownies for dessert. Additionally, teachers have reported that children are making dietary changes as a result of using the educational game. They are staying awake and are more attentive in classrooms.
Marta believes that education and empowerment the keys to healthy eating and thereby, healthy living. She speaks publicly about obesity and nutrition-related topics, teaches fun interactive nutrition classes, and uses interactive techniques to ensure the message is understood by audiences of all ages. She and her husband Frederic are truly living their life’s mission and hope to “be the change they want to see in the world”. They live in Bellevue with their two children and two dogs.
Our guest writer is Mala Sarat Chandra, a faculty member of the University of Washington’s iSchool and CEO of MyMobilife, a consultancy focusing on the convergence of mobile, location and social media technologies. Prior to that she has held executive positions at several F100 high tech companies. Her full bio may be found at linkedin.com/in/malachandra.