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Go back to the roots!

Technology can help us not only regain but also share our lost cultural traditions of healthy meal preparation and healthy life habits

Photo of Avani Arora

Written by

Now that I have gotten older, it astonishes me how much we have forgotten about what we used to love as children.  Here are a few examples that come to mind:

- There used to be a concept of seasons with food...meaning that certain fruits and veggies weren't available all year round. There was excitement in the anticipation of a jackfruit season or knowing just when to go pick the mango so it is the sweetest. 

- Grandmothers make all sorts of dishes with their tiny, wrinkly hands that are delicious but I feel like there's a "cube root" -type  effect with mother makes 1/3 of what my grandma made and I am probably at best cooking up 1/3 of what my mom makes.

- We used to spend so much more time active as a family that feels much more diminished today. For example,  we had a garden and we would help out with keeping it going. It was a family project of sorts where everyone had responsibility...but everyone could share in the pride of seen the fruits of their labor (pun intended). We also had community events where we used to invite people to join in dances or other activities.

Technology is becoming evermore ubiquitous...even grandmas are using iphones! Why can't we weave technology to support retention of cultural practices that promote health and harness its power to share lessons across socioeconomic and cultural boundaries?

What if....

1) There was an app that was easy enough for our grandmas and moms could record and send their recipes and meal preparation tips?

2) There was an app that helped you coordinate the development and upkeep of a community garden in your neighborhood?

3) You could leverage technology to create a virtual community center... where events could be coordinated and participation encouraged?

These are just a few thoughts...We should be proud of our diverse backgrounds and I can't think of a better way than to leverage technology to share healthy lifestyles with others and to help us collectively enjoy it for years to come.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ahmed Rub

I would be very curios to learn about other culture preparation for certain food when I eat it !

Photo of Carlo Stragapede

Dear Avani,
I totally agree with the first paragraph of your contribution.
Global consumption leads to a large availability of whatever kind of off season fruit and veggies all year round .
Even I observe an encouraging trend in the consumption of off season or too much earlier first fruits like a status symbol of richness and easiness .
I believe that this kind of approach is not correct .
Of course everyone is free to spend his money as he wants, but it would be smarter to center own diet on seasonable fruit and veggies because
- It would be healthier as early crops involve forcing with chemical products and hormones
- We could have lower harmful emissions to the environment due to transporting and cooling
- Lower prices
- Real tastes
- Local economy support
This is the reason why I feel to assert :

We will talk about processed food and apps in the next steps .

PS your ideas about apps are very interesting
Bye bye

Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks for your comments Carlo, lots of good perspective and the impact going seasonal!

Photo of Ian Wilkinson

Hi Avani.

You are right that we lose so much between the generations. I think we carry a lot of our food heritage around in our heads and we learn by watching in many cases. Not a lot gets written down and so great ideas for food gradually disappear.

I like your idea for the Apps and the idea of a virtual community centre - A good way of sharing and perhaps ending isolation for some community members.

Best wishes,


Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks for your note Ian...So much of our heritage is defined by food and events that involve food that I would hate to see it go!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Avani, the Ideas Phase of the Healthy Lives Challenge has just started. We'd love it if you might submit an idea that builds on this research post - or any idea that you're passionate about pursuing. Thank you for your insightful contributions so far. Hope to see you in the Ideas Phase!

Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks for this note Shane. I was traveling recently and just returned...have been thinking about this and will definitely post!

Photo of Hannah Tran

Great ideas. Hope we can develop the effective apps to bring this idea to go live!

Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks for your comments Hannah!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Avani, congrats on being featured in our community highlights blog! Check it out in the latest issue of ReFresh here:

Photo of Karen Powroznik

This idea combines two of my favorite principles of behavioral intervention - community and identity. I also really appreciate the potential for these solutions to also address issues of social isolation and connectivity among older people. Great ideas!

Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks for your comments Karen!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Inspiring reflection on the cultural traditions of healthy meal preparation Avani! It's true that our healthy life habits are very much influenced by the family traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. I have to admit that I felt nostalgic when you painted the picture of grandmothers preparing delicious meals with wrinkly hands:) How might we use technology to preserve and share these healthy life practices for generations to come? This will be an important provocation to consider as we move close to the Ideas Phase of this challenge.

Perhaps you might also be interested to chime in and exchange insights with these two likeminded posts:

Photo of Avani Arora

Thanks Shane. I had a chance to visit the other posts and think there are definitely some good ideas out there. Love the little community success idea - to me while there is no doubt on the quality of the interactions/exchange of knowledge, the scale impacts appear somewhat restricted. I do like the suggestion on finding people nearby through a rating system - but I wonder if you will achieve the same quality of knowledge exchange if you don't know someone. There may be some personal safety issues to consider here as well.

Ultimately, I think technology can be a mechanism to help curate and share knowledge broadly, helping achieve scale impacts. The trick is balancing quality of information and interaction with achieving scale. I'm sure there are many apps that do various pieces of this, but there's not a clear winner for a reason.

The idea of connecting consumers with food origins is also very good. I think there are two aspects to this: education and transparency. Education about food origins should start with kids so that as they grow, they become educated consumers who are aware of food chains and know the impact of decisions they make. Technology can drive this in many ways- games, apps that allow tracking of school agriculture projects, etc. Consumers also need to know what they are buying and technology can really help provide transparency on where things come from. What if you could scan a barcode or take a picture of label in a supermarket and see how the product was evaluated in may dimensions: nutrition, labor conditions, where it came from, carbon footprint, etc.?

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!