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Student Creates Calorie Counting App For BC Dining

Special Projects Editor

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 21:01

Although Boston College Dining Services (BCDS) provides nutritional information for all of the food it serves, accessing this data from a mobile phone can be a tedious process. James Campbell, A&S ’13, created the Campus Calories mobile app to make it easier.

Campus Calories, now available for free on Apple’s app store, easily allows Boston College students to look up nutritional information and keep a log of their daily calorie intake. It also has a “quick add” feature that students can use to add calories from foods that are not listed in Campus Calories’ internal list.

“I’ve eaten the same thing for four years here, and I just thought that it would be useful to know exactly what I’m eating,” Campbell said. So he looked up the information for one of his favorite lunches, two Baja chicken sandwiches with frips and a pickle, and was surprised at the results.

“That’s 3,000 calories for lunch,” Campbell said. “I thought people should know what they’re eating. I thought it would be a useful tool, especially here, where people seem to really care about what they eat.”
Campbell spoke with a friend who had majored in computer science about whether or not it would even be possible to create the app. After they decided that it would be a relatively easy process, Campbell began his research. He organized the information from BCDS’s website into a spreadsheet and then started designing the app itself.

“I downloaded some of the programs and tried my hand at programming it, and it was kind of a disaster,” Campbell said. In order to get the project done quickly and professionally, then, he created 20 screen images showing what he wanted the app to look like and sent them to a professional developer. They worked for two months and created six versions of the app before Campbell released it last Thursday.

The app reached 2,000 downloads in its first week in the app store, Campbell said.

“I was very happy with that, because that was actually my mark,” he said. “I figured there are 10,000 kids here, plus faculty, so that was 20 percent.”
Campbell said that he has gotten positive feedback so far. Many students have told him about how surprised they were to find that some of their favorite and supposedly healthy foods, such as the flatbread pizzas at Addie’s, were higher in calories than they had thought. Despite this, Campbell said that reviewers seem to appreciate having an easier way to keep track of their meals.

“People seem excited about it,” he said. “Even all my roommates use it, and they’re guys.”
Campus Calories only contains nutritional information for food in BC’s cafeterias. Due to its success, however, Campbell said that he is planning on adding information for UMass, Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston University’s cafeterias. He is also recruiting interns for the summer to help him with the expansion process.

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