About a month ago I participated in Food+Tech Connect’s second annual hackathon: Hack//Dining. If you’re not into the startup and tech world, a hackathon is a weekend-long jam session for coders, developers, designers and idea makers to form teams and engineer viable solutions to real-world problems. On the surface it is a competition for the best pitch to the judges and corporate sponsors who might back your solution as a product. But the valuable, yet intangible, brilliance of a hackathon is a weekend to get to know a diversity of creative minds who can push your thinking forward and inspire others in turn. Hack//Dining’s goal was to create a better future for food and dining.
When Food+Tech Connect advertised that Hack//Dining was not the typical hackathon, they had several differentiations in mind. First, since we were discussing food sustainability, meals and snacks over the weekend consisted of local, sustainable, healthy foods to energize our bodies and minds – not the energy drinks and processed snacks that are usually associated with coding sessions. Next, the normal male-dominated tech nerd crowd was laced with chefs, restaurant consultants, nutritionists, and all-around foodies. In other words, there were more tech-literate, food-interested women like me! Also, this was a design hackathon so the work was all about concept and presentation; coding muscles not mandatory.
After some great conversations on the first night, I got a spark of creativity for the concept and opted to work solo. The product I came up with is Palette: a fun, accessible and artful way to review and share your food choices built on the concept of eating in color. It starts with taking a picture of your food. From there, the app analyzes the photo to give you a score for color diversity on your plate. Bright and colorful meals are praised while monotone meals of bread and potatoes are not. Next, you tag food choices from colors matching menu items and receive another score for having a well-balanced meal as compared to the simple ratios of Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate. There would be some complicated technology behind the programming, but to the end user healthy eating would be expressly simple – eat colorfully and balance your food groups. Check out the solution below.
I didn’t win the hackathon, but the challenge presentations with Google executives really forced me to think about how the average person understands healthy eating. Truly the number of decisions to make are overwhelming! Calorie counting, ingredient sourcing, recipe testing, budget watching, menu planning…it’s all difficult but the eating in color solution, like my cooking from scratch solution, can give an easy and attainable goal to focus on. I would very much like to continue to develop Palette, so app developers reach out to me! In the meantime, I’ll be sharing recipes with lots of colorful fruits and veggies for you to join me in good health.
Colorful Cabbage and Apple Slaw
Makes 6-8 servings
1/4 red cabbage
1 small red onion
2 Granny Smith apples
1 red bell pepper (optional)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, by mandoline, or with a knife, thinly shred the cabbage and onion. Change the blade to julienne the carrots, granny smith apples, and bell pepper. Mix all of the vegetables together in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oregano and olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Pour over slaw and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.