Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 10 February 2023

Schoolchildren have their finger on the pulse as they help create a new game

Image: © Eco Schools Roadshow

Beanz meanz gamez for children taking part in a healthy eating project with the University of Oxford which coincides with World Pulses Day (10 February).

The BeanMeals project, led by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), is a collaborative research project involving stakeholders across the food system, including Food for Life. As part of the research to promote diets that are good for people and planet, the project is working with children at schools across Leicestershire to encourage them to eat school meals made with dried beans.

As part of the project pupils have been helping to design a new game which is making them think more about the beans they eat.

Joanne Craven is a games designer who has been working with the children: "Through our research we're trying to identify their barriers to eating beans, and to understand which recipes they are excited by and which ones they find gross. We also want to encourage the children to try new varieties of beans.

"The game will expose the children to the UK beans used in the project, and test whether using games can influence children's eating habits."

The children's imaginations have led to some interesting ideas. Joanne said: "They came up with lots of things I'd never have thought of. One group did a game where you had to try and smash the bean open to see what was inside - they managed to smash three beans and I still don't know how they did it. They said it was a secret! Some games had many levels and intricate storylines while others firmly focused on the digestive aspect!"

The idea for a game to encourage eating beans has inspired older school children too, with pupils at one secondary school looking to create an online game, for digital gamers.

Dr John Ingram, Programme Leader of the Food Research Programme at the ECI, leading the BeanMeals Project said: "With BeanMeals we're reversing the farm-to-fork paradigm and starting with the consumer - therefore engaging children is an important part of this project. We know from previous work that serious games are an excellent way to engage people in research. In this instance, our stakeholders are primary school children so it will be interesting to learn whether the BeanMeals game can help promote the take-up of bean meals in the schools we're working with."

Researchers at the University of Warwick, part of the BeanMeals team, have developed two beans which are suitable for UK growing, a blonde bean named Godiva and a traditional white navy bean named Capulet. To give a commercially viable yield, navy beans usually need summer heat and a lot of sunlight to grow well. However, Godiva and Capulet have been purposefully developed in Warwickshire using conventional plant breeding methods to create new varieties that can thrive and produce high quality seeds in a British summer.

BeanMeals aims to support an increase in low fat, sugar and salt meals made with healthy plant-based proteins.

You can follow BeanMeals on Twitter @BeanMealsUK and search on LinkedIn for BeanMeals.



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