LEXINGTON, Ky. — University of Kentucky students now have access to nutrition information from UK Dining Services, thanks to the work of students from UK’s College of Agriculture and the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering.
Mallory Foster, a graduate student in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and computer science students Keith Moyer of Vienna, Va., Rakesh Patel from India, Matt Seabold from Louisville and Randy Luecke of Marshall County have developed UK Food, a free nutrition app for menu items offered at UK’s major on-campus eateries: Ovid’s Cafe, Commons and Blazer.
Foster, from Teays Valley, W. Va., developed her idea during an undergraduate shadowing experience with Monica Fowler, a registered dietician who works with UK athletes. One of Foster’s tasks involved gathering nutrition information from campus dining and making it available to the athletes. Foster and Fowler began to wonder if they could do that for every student on campus.
“For most students, college is the first time they are away from home, and they are going to develop habits that could potentially be with them for the rest of their lives,” Foster said. “Hopefully, this app will help them make healthier food choices.”
“Everyone eats, but the way we eat is very important to our overall health,” said Sandra Bastin, interim chair of the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. “Mallory took valuable nutrition knowledge and, with the help of the computer science students, literally put the information at the fingertips of everyone on campus. It is also a perfect example of how collaborations and the use of specialty expertise can develop a worthwhile product.”
The goal for the app was for it to be easy to use and provide useful nutrition information to those dining on campus. The four also developed a web application to permit UK Dining Services to send announcements to students and to edit the food information.
“Before this project, I worked on projects which had only one component,” said Patel, who graduated in December. “This project has four components. It was interesting to see how different components work together.”
The app provides the nutrition information for most of the menu items in campus dining halls including calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In addition, each user can put their personal health information, such as height, weight, age, gender and physical activity level into the app. It will then calculate body mass index and daily caloric needs. As students eat foods at UK Dining Services, they can select the menu item on the app and a line at the bottom of the screen, representing their daily caloric intake, will begin to fill up.
The UK Food app is available for iPhones on the App Store at https://myukdev.uky.edu/zAPPS/UkFoodOtaInstall/