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Posted: June 30, 2010

Boulder startup encourages food for thought

Interactive website lets kids plan healthy meals

Brooke Wylie

ZisBoomBah.com is working to create healthy eating habits from an early age, the fun way.

The Boulder startup, launched by Karen Laszlo in November, is a website that allows kids to build their own meals online emphasizing nutrition and healthy living. The site's interactive tool "Pick Chow!" teaches kids as it challenges them to come up with a five-star, healthy meal.

Brandon Saranik, who does marketing for the company, says its mission comes from an insight Laszlo had. "There are certain things we teach kids from a very young age -- don't talk to strangers, look both ways -- but we don't teach them about healthy nutrition, and that's what we're really trying to change," Saranik said.

ZisBoomBah is currently competing for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Challenge and has been featured on Michelle Obama's Apps for Healthy Kids page and Rachael Ray's non-profit website, Yum-O.org.

If ZisBoomBah ends up winning the Pepsi Refresh Challenge the company wants to develop a grade-school curriculum as well as a virtual world where kids can explore healthy foods and share that experience with each other.

"The curriculum would be a free online child nutrition program for all English speaking schools," Saranik explained. "It's something we really want to do whether we win or not."

So far the website, which came out of beta testing about a month ago, has generated more than 3,500 unique visitors. Saranik anticipates at least 10,000 unique visitors in July thanks to some traffic courtesy of the Apps for Healthy Kids competition voting and coverage in Bon Appétit.

Amidst the praise, ZisBoomBah has received some criticism from those who cite computers and Internet use as factors in the rise of childhood obesity.

"Our program is not meant to be a long, engaging experience. It is 10 to 15 minutes of the child building their meal and shooting it off to their parents," Saranik said.

Saranik also noted that although the company has plans to monetize, it will never advertise to children. Strategic partners will be the primary source of income.

"We are working to get company sponsorship on the food bar in the ‘Pick Chow!' part of the site," he said. "Company products will appear in the food options and when kids send the meal to their parents they may also receive exclusive coupons from our partners."

Voting for Michelle Obama's Apps for Healthy Kids competition runs for a month beginning July 14.
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Brooke Wylie is a ColoradoBiz intern.

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