We interviewed the DFA team at Northwestern University about their project, Fruit Buddi, which works to deal with the issue of childhood obesity and promote healthier food choices. Read about the various obstacles, challenges, and successes that Fruit Buddi has come to face as it has matured and been continued through the design process.

Check out their video below!

What inspired you to take on this project?

From the start, we wanted to create something for better health. We were excited to get involved with childhood obesity and felt that preventative healthcare deserves much more attention than it receives. After the initial launching of Fruit Buddi, seeing how it motivated one girl to buy an apple that she wouldn’t have otherwise wanted inspired us to continue on with the project. The girl, Genesis, and her mother had come into the grocery store planning to buy a backpack. However, by the end of the testing, Genesis ran towards the cart, reached into the Fruit Buddi and asked her mother if she could have it. We were ecstatic.

What are some of the barriers or challenges you’ve come to?

The three major challenges for us have been: finding users for research and observation, writing and filing a provisional patent, and partnering with grocery stores.

We couldn’t find people to talk to for a while because our community partner ended their school program we had been using to talk to children.  We dealt with this pretty well by reframing our challenge around an accessible, relevant, and interesting part of the research we had already done- children’s eating behaviors as influenced by experience in grocery stores. Finding people in stores was very accessible, so that was a big win.

A lot of people advised us to write a provisional patent so that we could safely discuss Fruit Buddi with potential store partners after we presented Fruit Buddi at the end of our summer studio experience.  Writing it was a learning process and took us a while to understand, and we largely refrained from developing Fruit Buddi until we had submitted our provisional patent (which I think was a big mistake) out of fear. We did spend some time developing a business model and conducting more user testing, but we should have done more communicating with grocery stores to set up a partnership and with manufacturers to get more refined prototypes.  When we did finally submit it, a lot of time had passed.

Partnering with grocery stores has also been a challenging process.  The store that has shown the most interest in implementing Fruit Buddi has recently been uncommunicative, and others have not been as interested so far. We will have to be patient and trust that it’s just a matter of time before we secure a partnership.

What are the next steps for Fruit Buddi?

We are working to refine our prototype with our manufacturing partner and to get a grocery store on board. We’re currently following up on a few big leads, which we are excited about and James will also be speaking at the international IxDA conference in January. We hope this might lead to some interesting connections as well.

Can you tell us about the GOOD Maker Challenge and Fruit Buddi?

We won!  It was a long struggle because we went back and forth from first to second place. We had so much support from DFA, all of our family members and friends. It was an emotionally demanding experience to bounce between 2nd and 1st place continuously in the days and hours leading up to it, and it felt great to finally see it happen. It was confusing at first because after the tally was in, we were in first, but another project was listed as the winner. When they finally did the tally, turns out Fruit Buddi won after all and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

The award is a tour of the Food Network & lunch with an Awesome Trustee. We are yet to receive our prize, but are very excited!

Check out their winning project on GOOD.maker!!