Isabella Jimenez is only 16 years old, but she’s already an entrepreneur and app creator.
In fact, she got started when she was 12.
Jimenez began creating her app called MyFunFood in 2018. The app is meant to be a digital cookbook where young people can learn to cook easy, healthy recipes, while also playing trivia games and learning health tips.
After years of planning and development, Jimenez launched MyFunFood in December 2020. It’s available to download for free in the Apple Store.
“The goal now that it’s out is just to try to get it to not only kids, but adults and families as well, and not just the San Antonio area, but hopefully even the across the country,” Jimenez said.
From a Cookbook to an App
MyFunFood has come a long way since its inception.
The app started as a service project for Jimenez when she was a Student Ambassador in the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council, a group that promotes healthy eating and lifestyles throughout the San Antonio community. She wanted to help her classmates eat healthier. In Latino neighborhoods here and across the nation, families are exposed to little healthy food and abundant availability of junk food.
“After thinking about it for a while, I was like, ‘You know what, I think I’m going to do a cookbook,’” Jimenez said.
But she quickly discovered her peers would be more interested in a cooking app than a physical cookbook.
“I went around my old middle school and asked kids, ‘Would you rather want a cookbook? Or would you rather pick up your phone?’ And everybody said, ‘Even though I don’t cook, I’d rather use a cooking app,’” Jimenez said.
The Mayor’s Fitness Council led her to useful resources, like a connection to an app developer.
“Chris Turner of Turner Logic helped me with the development process of the app. He actually created the backend of the app,” Jimenez said.
The inspiration for the recipes came from Jan Tilly, a dietician and author of Healthy Meals for Hurried Families.
With the help of Turner and Tilly, Jimenez set to work on creating a pitch for the city.
However, she quickly ran into some challenges with securing the funding for the app.
Challenges with Funding the App
Creating an app is expensive.
To launch MyFunFood, Turner estimated Jimenez would need to raise $30,000.
But once Jimenez decided to incorporate more games and interactive content into the app, they realized the cost was going to be a lot more – close to $150,000.
It took her two and a half years to raise enough funds.
“The biggest challenge was securing the funding, as well as trying to convince people as to why this app would be beneficial. I went to various organizations all over my community, such as the San Antonio Food Bank. The Mayor’s Fitness Council helped me with setting up a lot of the meetings as well as my mom,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez presented her idea about the app to various San Antonio-based organizations, like the Metropolitan Health District, SA Chef, the Culinary Institute, and Santa Rosa’s Children’s Hospital.
“I went to these organizations knowing that they had the same mindset as me or goal, that I want to help and make a positive impact on the community,” Jimenez said.
Dr. Colleen Bridger of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District ended up being one of the largest supporters and sponsors, as well as organizations like It’s Time Texas and the Mayor’s Fitness Council.
Turner, the app’s developer, also donated a significant amount of the costs to help Jimenez with her vision.
“We would have never been able to do this app without him,” said Mary Velasquez, Isabella’s mom. “It is phenomenal the support that the community has given us.”
With the funding secured, Jimenez and Turner were finally able to develop the app and launch it in December 2020.
How the MyFunFood App Works
Now that MyFunFood is available for download in the Apple Store, anyone in the country can use the app to cook healthy and easy recipes.
In addition to cooking, kids and teenagers can use it for games.
“The app is not only a cookbook, but there are trivia games and food matching games, because the age group for the app is middle school and high school. But obviously, little kids like in lower elementary school can use it too,” Jimenez said.
She hopes the games can help entertain kids while the food is cooking.
“If a kid were to be cooking by themselves and they were waiting for the food, they need to stay there with the food, so the games will help keep them stimulated. And not only that, but all the trivia questions are nutrition facts, like how much water should you drink in a day? How much sleep should you get? How many calories should you consume? How much potassium is in this fruit?” Jimenez said.
As for the recipe section, Jimenez wanted to have many options but keep it simple for users.
“The recipes are categorized into five categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. And the user is actually able to favorite whatever recipe they want. The ingredients you can find at your local grocery store, you don’t have to go to any specific market that’s across the town. And the directions are very straightforward, just so the user doesn’t get confused,” Jimenez said.
Community members can also submit recipes to Jimenez if they want them featured on the app.
“I recently set up an email a couple weeks ago, for students, families, or anybody to submit recipes. It’s called [email protected] So I’m able to put in the recipes that people submit to that email and they can see it pop up in the app,” Jimenez said.
Many of the recipes come from Tilly, and are labeled as JTA Wellness, her brand, on the app. Others come from H-E-B partners, like Julie Bedingfield. When friends, family, and community members submit recipes, they’re labeled MyFunFood Community.
Jimenez tested each of them to make sure they would work for the app.
“All of the recipes I had to make to see if they were easy to make and if they tasted good, and all of them do. And they’re really simple to make as well,” Jimenez said.
A Personal Connection
Jimenez started MyFunFood to help kids and teens in her community eat healthy.
But she also has a personal connection to the mission.
“My freshman year, I did struggle with my diet actually. Even though I was swimming competitively for two hours in the morning, two hours in the night, every single day, I did not have a good hold on my diet, and it was starting to show and I was gaining weight,” Jimenez said.
Then, her doctor started to worry.
“My pediatrician noticed a diabetic precursor on my neck. And I know that diabetes not only runs in my family, but it’s also one of the most common underlying diseases in not only San Antonio, but in Texas, as well as the whole country,” Jimenez said.
Diabetes affects Latinos disproportionately. Latinos in Texas are nearly twice as likely to die of diabetes compared to white people.
For Jimenez, changing her diet was an important step in preventing diabetes.
“After hearing Jen Tilly speak in 2018, I realized I want her on board with my project. And after trying her recipes, and they’re extremely easy to make, I saw that I needed to change my diet. And I know that with these recipes, I can make a difference in not only myself, but as well as my community,” Jimenez said.
She’s already heard from young people in the community that her app is impactful.
“I presented it to the alumni of the Mayor’s Fitness Council a couple weeks ago. And all of the kids that I presented to loved it. Even one of them actually talked and said, ‘Now that you’re talking about it, it actually motivates me to change the way I eat.’ And that made me really happy because that was the goal of the app. If it could change one kid’s eating habits, then I did my job,” Jimenez said.
The Future of the MyFunFood App
For now, Jimenez and her mom are hoping to spread the word about the app to as many people as possible.
They also hope to develop MyFunFood for Android phones in the future.
“We’d love to get that because we know we’re missing people. Because she’s so motivated now and has, stayed true to this, I hope that it can continue making a difference for our community. So Android would be our next wish list,” Velasquez said.
Jimenez herself will be off to college soon, as she finishes her senior year at Johnson High School this spring.
As for now, her college plans include a degree in business and continuing the app.
“I do have an interest in the business side of the medical field. I recently got into the business school at UT Austin, so my goal after high school would hopefully be implementing the app through McCombs [Business School], and not only there, but as well as all the programs on the UT campus. My goal right now is to hopefully earn a degree in business, and then hopefully work for a couple years, and then go back and earn my master’s,” Jimenez said.
You can download the MyFunFood app in the Apple Store today.
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