Getting kids to ditch junk food and eat healthy is no easy task.
According to one local company, though, the way to children’s stomachs is through their iPads.
“The first place they go when they have a question is the Internet,” said Natasha Lance Rogoff, CEO and founder of Somerville’s KickinNutrition. “My son is obsessed with food, and I just thought there should be a way to shoot new videos, create interactive opportunities for kids to share content based on eating really great food.”
Rogoff’s company, headquartered at Tech Hub in Somerville, recently partnered with Apple and plans to demo its platform at the computer giant’s store on Boylston Street Friday night.
There is a lot of digital bridge-building baked into KickinNutrition’s flashy system: a 3D adventure game (cook a robot a healthy meal, re-stock a food pantry) and a social network where kids can chat about health food. There was even a related campaign that asked families to send in pictures posing with nutritious eats: #HealthySelfie2015.
Plus, there are comedy videos, centered on characters who cook and eat healthy foods. They feature Boston-area actors and some were shot on-site at a school in Roxbury. Some have celebrity cameos, like Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger. In a future episode, Rogoff said, look for a yet-to-be-announced star of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”
“It’s a similar format to a sitcom like Hannah Montana or other Disney or Nickelodeon sitcoms, except it’s got an educational component to it,” said Rogoff. She used to be an executive director for Sesame Street. “It’s got kind of an edgy feel to it. It’s not boring.”
It works, researchers said.
Studies from Boston Universitysuggested the program made kids in test schools change their eating habits for the better, she said.Aadvisory board of public health and nutrition experts atHarvard and Tuftsalso helped develop KickinNutrition’s content.
To date, 18,000 students have used the company’s offerings in schools in Florida, New York and Massachusetts. Rogoff said she’s had discussions with Boston Public Schools about a partnership.
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She said growth had so far been largely “organic,” and that appearing at Apple offered a new opportunity for the budding business to meet new KickinNutrition adopters.
“We’re a really small group of passionate people who are trying to address the obesity crisis, and this is a great way to do it,” Rogoff said.
The event at the Apple store was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. To be there, register online at Apple.com/boylstonstreet.