Entertaining and educational, Tracy Hardy's ‘Eat a Rainbow' app is also simple and brilliant.
“How did you come up with the idea?” I ask her.
“Well you know how you get told to eat all the colours of the rainbow?” she asks.
“No,” I reply, fascinated. She refers me to Dr Michael Greger, who wrote: “The best science tells us that a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts is the healthiest diet for children. Both variety and quantity are important, so kids should eat all of the colours of the rainbow to be healthy and strong.”
I know fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. I'd not heard it portrayed as a rainbow before. Tracy explains further.
“Fruits that are darker are better,” she says, “so it's better to have a red onion than a white onion.
Some berries are better than others. Red kumara, beetroot - vegetables with strong colours - have lots of nutrients in them. I kept reading ‘Eat a Rainbow Every Day' and thought ‘let's turn that into an app'.”
She drew a picture on a big piece of paper with some stickers and arrows and contacted a game developer. They turned her diagram into an app which can now be downloaded onto Android devices as well as iPads and iPhones.
A simple guide, and perfect for early childhood centres, the app shows children how to eat something from the rainbow every day.
“When they first learn to speak, they often learn the names of fruit and vegetables,” says Tracy, “so this is a great initial tool for them, also learning vocabulary.”
The app voice is in English. When clicking on a banana, the child sees it, hears the word for it, and learns to spell it.
The app asks: “What have you eaten today?”
As each food item is selected, the rainbow starts to develop a deeper colour, based around the colour of the food choice.
Activities selected add sparkles, while another link takes the user to an interactive game.
There are approximately nine fruit and vegetables listed in each of the five rainbow categories of purple, green, red, orange/yellow, and white, making a total of around 45 food items. Two other categories are exercise and activities.
“Children may grow up never seeing a nectarine, spinach or a red onion,” says Tracy. “It teaches them about things that may be outside of their home.
“They're also learning, at a young age, the concept that eating fruit and vegetables is a good thing. This makes it easier to carry on as they grow older.”
I play with the purple food groups, putting eggplant and purple cabbage into my rainbow.
Then I choose some mango, pineapple, pumpkin and carrot for my orange section, and raspberries and capsicum, some greens, followed up with seeds, nuts and potato which are all in the white/brown category.
Adding an activity, my rainbow starts to sparkle.
Feeling happy and healthy, I click over to the game and find myself playing it for nearly half-an-hour.
It's all been designed for three-to-six year olds, but I suspect it will keep older children and adults mesmerised too.