Gov't Spends $700K On 'Vegetable Parenting Practices' Video Game

By Eric Scheiner | August 12, 2014 | 2:01pm EDT


Image from "Kiddio" (USDA Photo)

( - The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $747,891 for the development of a video game to train “vegetable parenting practices”.

A grant for “Kiddio: Food Fight - Training Vegetable Parenting Practices” was given to Archimage, Inc. of Houston to help fund the project from May of 2013 through the end of August 2014.

“The genre of games that we research and develop are called ‘Serious Video Games’”, Archimage President Richard Buday tells  “It’s a game to teach to mothers of pre-school age kids how to get their children to eat vegetables.”

According to Buday, a major focus is to help fight childhood obesity. “One of the problems is that parents may want the kids to eat better - fruits and veggies – but lack the understanding of how to do that.”

“What we're trying to do is get to parents - in a medium that they enjoy and look forward to receiving information through - but in a non-didactic way.”

The project's grant description says that storied video games “offer goal setting for changing practices in the real world, and address common vegetable feeding problems (that) should produce improved food parenting skills.”

The premise of the game has players assume the role of a mother. “You are the mother of a family and you have a child who hates veggies,” Buday says. “We have a series of situations and environments where eating occasions occur.”

The game allows players to choose among various difficulty levels, parenting styles and strategies in an effort to get the child to taste a vegetable.

The development of the game initially started several years ago with funding through the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The game stemmed from studies in “behavioral nutrition”.

Behavioral nutrition is “all about exploring—and explaining—the internal and external factors that influence our food choices,” said psychologist Tom Barankowski of the ARS in a 2012 USDA publication on Kiddio’s development.

Image from "Kiddio" (USDA Photo)

“We think the ability to drill and simulate in an immersive and entertaining way –in this case food parenting practices – is a much better way to change behavior rather than to giving somebody a bunch of facts and hope they incorporate them and use them to change what they think and what they do,” Buday says.

Kiddio is currently still in development but the goal is to make the game available as a free or inexpensive online app to provide broad access to young parents.

MRC Store