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k12 Food Lab and Open Tastenovation platform

k12 Food Lab would involve kids in further scientific research into the senses, how they influence food choices, and how they can be exploited to get kids to overcome their first reactions to some new tastes and to provide healthy options that subtly adjust the tastes of foods to cater to the palates of kids. The lab could be a food truck, a small restaurant, a few offices at a university, a building or its own campus. The Open Tastenovation platform would involving kids in the hypothesis formation, research, prototyping, and evaluation processes, building their thinking skills as well as their understanding of their palates.

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Chew on a cinnamon stick. The taste is overpowering. Put the cinnamon stick in a cup of hot apple cider and maybe you'll like it. Or maybe not. As another concept mentions, it can be necessary to taste something multiple times before developing a palate for it. If you give up after that first time, you'll never know if you could eventually like it.

We have evolved to instinctively favor sweet tastes (energy) and dislike bitter tastes (toxins/poisons). It is understandable that a kid would dislike his or her first taste of, for example, broccoli and not want to taste it again unless it was covered in cheese. It's also understandable that kids immediately like the taste of sweet foods. Adults are also influenced by these physiological realities.

Research could start by identifying existing solutions (e.g., with a global survey of parents asking them how they prepare foods that their kids usually dislike in ways that make them kid friendly) and understanding why those solutions work.

Next, kids could be involved in the lab physically and "virtually":
Kids could physically visit the lab on a field trip to take part in a day of sense experimentation, the lab could come to their schools in a food truck and visit their cafeterias, or a representation of the lab could be packaged for use in the classroom.

An open innovation (tastenovation) platform would compliment the physical lab by involving kids in the lab on a regular basis. Kids could be given learning credit or have an opportunity to win prizes for themselves, their schools or families if they complete surveys on the foods they like and dislike, correctly answer questions about why they crave sweet energy foods, or answer questions about taste experiments they've done in class at school. The tastenovation platform could also get kids involved in the lab by inviting them to take part in the hypothesis formation, research, prototyping, and evaluation processes, building their thinking skills as well as their understanding of their palates.

The end goal of the lab would be to produce results in culinary research for actual food products and recipes, thus providing a counterbalance to the research being done at many food companies where success is a food product that maximizes profits, rather than health benefits for kids.

Challenges directly addressed:
Fear of the Unknown
A lab is inherently experimental. By exposing kids to food in the context of a lab, the "unknown" becomes desirable and fun.

Parental Beliefs and Lifestyle
If children understand why they (and perhaps their parents) prefer the tastes of heavily seasoned foods to what foods taste like “au naturale”, they can share that information with their parents. A Google search for "learned from my children" turns up over two million results.

Peer Pressure
If kids are part of a cool and supportive community that embraces taste and an understanding of taste, they will have a better chance of not being influenced by their less informed peers.

Lack of Knowledge
"Are my parents trying to poison me?" No. The purveyors of junk food aren't trying to poison kids either, but they are trying to sell products that have tastes that kids (and adults) are biologically programmed to want. Knowing why "sweet" equals "tasty" will help kids make informed choices on taste in the short- and long-term.

Age of kids. The solutions to changing kids’ eating behaviors will vary depending on their age. What works for a toddler won’t necessarily fly for a teenager, although we suspect some concepts might be appropriate for all ages—even adults! Which age bracket does your concept address (tick all relevant boxes)?

  • Pre-school (Tots) 2-4
  • Elementary (Kids) 5-10
  • Middle school (Tweens) 11-13
  • High school (Teens) 14 -18
  • Young adults 18-21

Hurdles to success. Helping kids make smarter food choices comes with a variety of hurdles that have to be addressed in order for a design solution to be successful, which of these do you think that your Concept overcomes (tick all relevant boxes)?

  • Peer Pressure
  • Lack of Knowledge

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Another kind of food lab: