Educating consumers about the nutritional benefits of Idaho potatoes has been a priority since I began working for the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) nearly 10 years ago. One of our greatest challenges has been the low-carb diet fad, which, in my opinion, will never entirely go away. However, childhood obesity is now headline news, which makes it more important than ever to help children understand the important role potatoes can play in creating and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
During the past several years, the IPC has launched many programs geared toward children that:
Provide nutritional information on potatoes;
Showcase Idaho's natural resources;
Encourage folks of all ages to look for the "Grown in Idaho" seal.
In January 2013 we launched an online education program called "Smashed Spuddy Buddy" with Idaho's First Lady, Lori Otter. Children across the country were encouraged to watch a short, animated video about how potatoes grow and what differentiates Idaho potatoes from those grown in other states. With the help of a parent, children were then asked to submit a photo of themselves holding a colored drawing of Spuddy Buddy. Hundreds of entries from across the country were received and 75 kids were randomly selected to receive a $100 American Express gift card. The program proved to be a very effective way for the IPC to reach kids and their parents, and remind them of the natural goodness of Idaho potatoes.
The video, "How a Potato Grows," is permanently located on the kid's page of the IPC website, www.idahopotato.com/kids. This section also contains interactive games, coloring pages, a word search and a selection of kid-friendly recipes.
For the new fiscal year, the IPC has created several programs intended to reach kids and their parents, including:
1) Back to School Recipe Blitz: Quick and easy-to-make recipes will be featured on the IPC's website in September. New dinner suggestions, photographs and nutritional information will be added to our rapidly expanding, newly digitized recipe database.
2) App Contest: We're working with a top video game designer to launch a two-tiered contest. Gamers will be challenged to create an app/game featuring Idaho potatoes. We'll pick our five favorites and invite kids across the country to try them out and vote for the winner, who will be awarded a $5,000 cash prize.
3) YouTube Video Contest: We will host a nationwide video contest on YouTube that will have a special category for kids 17-years-old and younger. We'll encourage kids (with the help of an adult) to demonstrate how to prepare their favorite healthy Idaho potato recipe.
4) Great Big Idaho Potato Truck: The Truck will wrap up its 2013 tour at the annual Future Farmers of America meeting in Knoxville, Tenn. This is one of the largest conferences in the country for students between the ages of 12 and 21. Our Tater Team will be on hand to share information about the Idaho potato industry and fun facts about the Truck.
We're excited to implement these programs during the coming year, which will educate a very important, influential younger audience.