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Learning Nutrition at Whyville’s Virtual Cafeteria

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE         
Contact: Erik Peterson
703-739-3900 ext 124
epeterson@schoolnutrition.org 

Learning Nutrition at Whyville’s Virtual Cafeteria

Pasadena, Calif. (May 2, 2006) – The residents of Whyville, an educational virtual world for children, are sitting down to healthy meals at the Whyville Cafeteria.  Sponsored by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the Whyville Cafeteria is Whyville’s most recent initiative to bring nutritional awareness to children aged 8 to 15.

The virtual community (www.Whyville.net) is a graphical virtual world where children from around the world interact and learn together through educational activities that range from math and science to art and civics. They create graphical avatars to represent themselves and become citizens of a vibrant community.  In November 2005, virtual eating was introduced to the citizens of Whyville, with support from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA).  The program, dubbed WhyEat, allows Whyvillians to plan their meals and eat breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner – virtually.  With the grand opening of the Whyville Cafeteria, they can sit down at a virtual dining table together to share and discuss their food choices.   

Just as they would in real life, Whyville citizens fill their trays at the cafeteria line, choosing from such fare as taco salad, spaghetti, and fresh fruit.  Nutritional information is shown with every food, and citizens are held responsible for their choices.  If a citizen consumes insufficient calories, the avatar becomes pale.  Over-consumption of calories turns the avatar ruddy.  Lack of fruits could lead to unsightly scurvy sores.   Citizens can also work in the cafeteria, earning “clams”, Whyville’s currency, by cleaning up the dining hall or stocking food in the kitchen.

“In every game on Whyville, we’ve found that creating a social experience improves both game play and learning.  This is no exception.  The Cafeteria brings a social aspect to eating on Whyville.  You can even invite your friends to a banquet at the Cafeteria. ” said Jen Sun, President of Numedeon, Inc. the creators of Whyville.net.

“We are proud to sponsor the Whyville Cafeteria as a virtual nutrition education effort that helps children develop healthy eating habits,” said Ruth Jonen, SFNS President of the School Nutrition Association. “Members of SNA provide healthy school meals in America’s schools each day and we are excited to bring our expertise to the citizens of Whyville.”

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), www.schoolnutrition.org, is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country.  The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals.

Whyville.net is owned by Numedeon, Inc., a privately held company based in Pasadena, California. The virtual community (www.whyville.net) was launched in 1999 by scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs interested in exploring new ways to creatively engage young learners over the Internet.

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