Local school districts and the Food Helpers of Greater Washington County are teaming up to encourage children to make good food choices and provide them with healthy snacks.
LittleMoochi is an app that teaches healthy eating habits by having kids feed a virtual pet “Moochi”.
When kids eat a meal or snack, they feed their pet at the same time by taking a picture of what’s on their plate and uploading it to the app.
The AI-powered LittleMoochi app identifies millions of different types of foods and compares them to USDA nutrition guidelines.
When kids eat healthy foods, Moochi becomes stronger, healthier and happier. If they eat a lot of unhealthy foods and sugary snacks, Moochi does not feel comfortable and becomes unhappy.
As an incentive, kids also receive coins that they can use to “buy” clothes for their pets or things to decorate Moochi’s house.
The Greater Washington County Food Bank is delivering Moochi packets — which include healthy snacks — to district schools so kids can have healthy food options to keep playing at home.
Participating school districts are Avila, Charleroi, California District, Bethlehem Center, Fort Cherry, Ringgold, Trinity District and Carmichel District.
In the coming weeks, the food bank plans to add Brownsville, Bentworth, McGuffey, West Greene, Central Greene, Southeastern Greene and Jefferson-Morgan school districts.
The program was well received at Beth-Center, where 235 students from kindergarten through fifth grade participate.
“I can’t say enough good things about the program. Apart from promoting smart eating, it provides these kids with five types of smart and healthy snacks,” said Beth-Center Director Donald McFan, noting that students also received a backpack at the launch. the program.
The partnership between education departments and the GWCFB is helping tackle childhood obesity, which has tripled in the past three years. It is estimated that 21% of children ages 2 to 19 will be obese in 2020, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LittleMoochi aims to help children eat healthy food not by counting calories but by teaching them a healthy diet.
LittleMoochi’s primary purpose is to promote healthy food choices, but it also helps fight food insecurity.
There are an estimated 3,600 food-insecure children in elementary schools in Washington, Green and Fayette counties, according to Food Helpers.
“We really want to educate kids about making better choices, but there are some kids who want to be involved in the program but won’t be able to get healthy snacks at home, so we’re dealing with an element of food insecurity as well,” said Sherrys Sandrock, director of development at GWCFB.
The Charleroi Area School District has paired LittleMoochi with its Harvest Bounty Program, which provides 172 primary school students with shelf-stable, child-friendly foods to make sure kids have healthy snacks over the weekend.
About 54% of Charleroi students participate in the free and reduced lunch program for economically disadvantaged students.
“Many of our students rely on free and discounted breakfast and lunch for a nutritious meal during the week, and with (Harvest Bounty and LittleMoochi), our goal is to bridge the gap on the weekend,” said Kathy Franks, Elementary Reading teacher who serves on the Harvest Bounty team.
LittleMoochi was developed by Carnegie Mellon graduate student Summer (Qinxian) Xia in 2019.
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