VeggieBook, a mobile app for Android and iOS smartphones (VB)

University of Southern California

Overview

VeggieBook is a social marketing and direct education intervention app that is designed to help users choose customized recipes and healthy eating tips which ultimately lead to increased vegetable-based preparation for meals at home. The app invites a user to create a new VeggieBook or SecretsBook. VeggieBooks are sets of recipes, each set built around 1 of 10 vegetables. A series of questions posed by the app helps users select recipes and food preparation tips of interest. Recipes use simple ingredients most households have and have been tested for user-appeal. SecretsBooks are 5 sets of illustrated ideas about food use and acquisition–Secrets to Better Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Shopping. The app’s emphasis on users’ choices promotes just-in-time learning.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

Intervention Type: Direct Education, Social Marketing

Intervention Reach and Adoption

VeggieBook targets individuals aged 9 years and older in a variety of settings. VeggieBook can be adopted by anyone who controls a smartphone and knows how to download apps from either Google or Apple. VeggieBook has been implemented in California, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, and Colorado. VeggieBook was designed with food pantry clients in mind, yet a wide variety of people find the app helpful and intuitive to use. VeggieBook has been disseminated in settings such as food pantries (stationary and mobile), nutrition classes offered by food banks, public schools where parents drop and pick up middle-school children, farmers markets, health fairs, and health clinics.

Setting: Child care (Learn), Community (Live), Faith-based community, Farmers markets, Food pantries, Health care, Retail (Shop/Eat), School (Learn)

Target Audience: Middle School, High School, Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women, Parents/Mothers/Fathers, Adults, Older Adults, Food Pantry Clients

Race/Ethnicity: All, special focus on food pantry clients

Intervention Components

VeggieBook includes a user-friendly downloadable app. This intervention component provides information on vegetable-based recipes and ideas about food use and acquisition that lead to increased confidence in using and consuming vegetables. The intervention itself cannot be modified, but each app user chooses the recipes and Secrets he or she desires. The app provides each user a customized selection of recipes (from a cache of 260) and a customized selection of illustrated, no-cost ideas for improved meals and food shopping (from 80 available). The intervention is customizable to the user’s desired knowledge. Categories that the user can use to customize the content delivered include cooking method, recipes that are kid-friendly, combining a vegetable with meat, making a soup, preparing for just 1-2 people, preparing for people with diabetes, how to store or freeze or prevent spoilage of the vegetable, whether Latino or Asian or Soul Food flavors are sought, and more. Sustained and effective use of VeggieBook benefits greatly from dissemination efforts that include “human touches” that app builders have documented in experimental trials. The app may be used in either English or Spanish. It may be configured to provide color, printed output, as well as media content on phones.

Intervention Materials

The app is the main intervention material. The app can be downloaded at no cost from the Play Store (search for “VeggieBooks”) or from the Apple Store (search for “VeggieBooks”). Free consultations about how best to incorporate the app in a community organization’s routine activities, including a list of effective “human touches,” can be requested by contacting VeggieBook developer, Susan H. Evans, by phone (310-204-1633) or email (shevans@usc.edu).

Intervention Costs

Materials available at no cost.

Evidence Summary

Extensive formative research with pantry clients shaped the app’s content and navigational features. The app’s effectiveness in yielding improved outcomes among pantry clients was gauged with a randomized controlled trial with nearly 300 households. This study found that food pantry clients using VeggieBook began preparing 38% more vegetable servings compared to control clients. Other evaluation shows that 66% of cooks who used VeggieBook reported gaining confidence in performing kitchen tasks compared to 4% of control cooks. VeggieBook has also been shown to increase children’s (age 9-14 years) participation in preparing household meals.  VeggieBook is endorsed by a nurse practitioner and the app’s advisory board of pantry clients.

Publications on VeggieBook’s outcome and process evaluation can be found online:

Evidence-based Approach: Research-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual ST1 MT1
Environmental Settings
Sectors of Influence
  • ST1: 66% of cooks who used VeggieBook reported gaining confidence in performing kitchen tasks compared to 4% of control cooks
  • MT1: 38% increase in the use of test vegetables among food pantry clients using VeggieBook compared to control clients in week following pantry distribution (unduplicated preparations)

Evaluation Materials

Additional Information

Website: VeggieBook’s developers are on the faculty at the University of Southern California at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism whose website includes information on the University of Southern California – Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism including academic programs, faculty, and research.  The University of Southern California’s website can be accessed with this link. A demonstration of the app can be found in this video.

Contact Person:

Susan H. Evans

310-204-1633

shevans@usc.edu