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Isabella Jimenez of San Antonio isn’t a normal 13-year-old.
When Isabella watched in shock as her classmates ate only potato chips or candy bars for lunch day after day, she didn’t just shrug it off.
She gave herself a call to action.
“Why not create a kid-friendly app with recipes and health tips for [students and] the whole community?” Isabella asked.
Isabella’s First Step
In many Latino communities, like San Antonio (68% Latino), students are more exposed to unhealthy food in and out of school, according to a Salud America! research review.
Isabella saw this in her school, Lee High School in North East ISD in San Antonio.
“It’s mainly concerning, because [chips and candy bars are] what they’re putting into their diet,” Isabella said.
Isabella wanted to find a way to inspire her peers to eat healthier.
Fortunately, her older brother had recently participated in the Student Ambassador program of the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council. Ambassadors learn leadership skills and get help launching their own healthy change project.
Isabella applied, too, and was accepted.
She started to explore how to boost healthy food options for kids, with mentoring from program leaders, her parents, and her coach.
From Cookbook to App
Isabella got her first big idea—a cookbook with kid-friendly and nutritious recipes—when she met Jan Tilly while volunteering at a marathon. Tilly, a dietician and author of Healthy Meals for Hurried Families, agreed to help her create recipes.
But would a cookbook be a hit with her classmates?
Isabella thought an app could be more popular and easy to use.
“Why do kids want an app? Because now the majority of kids have smartphones and can pick it up anywhere, at any time,” Isabella said. “Why not have it downloadable instead of having them carry a cookbook.”
An app could have even broader reach, too, in the community.
After all, many neighborhoods in San Antonio struggle with limited healthy food choices and abundant fast food restaurants.
Support from Key Leaders in Health & Tech
Isabella and her mom, Mary Velasquez Jimenez, next met with potential partners.
They met again with Tilly. She offered advice on incorporating quick, easy recipes to keep kids entertained.
They met with Chris Turner, an entrepreneur and app developer. Turner founded Turner Logic, SnackDot, and is co-founder of Code-Up. Turner really helped put Isabella’s plans into perspective. Isabella learned about tools like Envision that she could use to develop examples of what the app would look like and how it would function.
Based on feedback from Tilly, Turner, and a peer group, Isabella wanted her key app elements to include:
- Healthy recipes and snack tips for students on the go
- Trivia games to draw more students in and keep them engaged;
- Fun facts about ingredients and their nutrients
“Most kids don’t usually focus on what’s inside their lunches,” said Isabella.
She decided to name the app “My Fun Food.”
Developing a Pitch
The next hurdle was money (Isabella learned from Turner that an app can cost up to $30,000 to create!).
So Isabella developed a Powerpoint presentation to “pitch” to potential financial backers.
Then she reached out to her local City Council member and gave the pitch.
She also shared her plans with Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, and Colleen Bridger, health director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
Isabella said they were thrilled about the project and wanted to help her seek funds and build the credibility of the app.
Isabella and her mother also contacted our team at Salud America! for support with sharing her story now during the early stages and later when the app is fully developed.
Isabella’s app is still in the works, and has a bright future.
Isabella is currently pilot-testing the app’s most basic features. She also wants to upload videos and enable users to share recipes, too.
Her short-term goals are to finalize app recipes, track student feedback to see what users like and dislike, and create a kids advisory council.
The advisory council will help to keep the app up-to-date and will decide on which new recipes to add or replace. Isabella also will create an adult advisory board, to hear from both groups and keep a good balance of content for the app.
“We’ll take all ideas and then vet them—and then we’ll take it to the kids for their feedback,” Isabella said.
The App’s Future
Isabella hopes that soon she will have a release date.
Once launched, Isabella hopes the app spreads among not only her peers, but to families across the entire city and beyond.
Isabella’s idea has turned into something that can bring healthy change to her community. This work takes more than a few days or months.
Her advice to anyone creating their own app is simple:
“You have to stick to what you believe in and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Here’s how you can learn about more amazing healthy food changes:
Note: This story was co-written by Rosalie Aguilar, Salud America! Project Coordinator, and Kennedy Sampson, a curator intern with Salud America!.
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.