The Green Light food app

Let’s Move Pittsburgh, a program of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, has launched Green Light Foods, a mobile app to help consumers make the right choices when food shopping.

Using the simple traffic light signal as a way to rate packaged food, the app evaluates the fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content of foods. Consumers scan package bar codes to get a red stop or green go or yellow caution rating. The app also gives alternatives to foods that rate low and offers nutrition information to inform future decisions.

Let’s Move Pittsburgh has been working to provide food education for families and the impetus for the app comes from program participant feedback, says Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini. “From our conversations with families and other individuals about how they make their food choices, we have learned that many people find it very difficult to discern whether or not a food is truly nutritious just by looking at the label. We wanted to see if we could make this process much easier for parents, caregivers and children, allowing them to quickly make healthier decisions while shopping at the grocery store.”

The app–which was developed by Phipps in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University students, Red House Communications and Wahila Creative–converts confusing nutrition labels into standards of grams or mls. If a product has 20 grams sugar, it will get a red light in that category.

“The Red House web development team was thrilled to help Phipps design and develop this unique app, which now provides easy to understand and on-the-spot guidance in making better nutritional choices,” says Gloria Blint, president and CEO of Red House.

The app is available for free through iTunes and Google Play.
Let’s Move Pittsburgh, which is modeled after First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! national campaign, is a collaborative effort in the region to fight obesity in children by raising awareness about “the benefits of healthy foods, increased exercise and decreased screen time for children.”

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment. She is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She writes about the intersection of food, health, innovation and policy.