Title:
INTERACTIVE ASSEMBLY OF CUSTOMIZED NUTRITIONAL MEALS AND SNACKS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method for assembling a nutritional meal and snack, and a package for the same, are presented. The method includes defining nutritional food and beverage groups within a recommended nutritional meal or snack, and providing food and beverage item options within each of the food and beverage groups. The method further includes associating a portion of a character image with each of the groups, and associating pictorial or graphic expressions of each of the character image portions to the food and beverage item options such that one expression of the character portion corresponds to one of the food and beverage options. A customer is allowed to choose one of the expressions such that a food and beverage item option for each of the food and beverage groups is chosen to form both of the nutritional meal or snack and a unique expression of a character image.



Inventors:
Kennedy, Deborah (Guilford, CT, US)
Application Number:
12/672600
Publication Date:
03/15/2012
Filing Date:
08/01/2008
Assignee:
KENNEDY DEBORAH
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
426/232
International Classes:
B65D85/00
View Patent Images:



Foreign References:
WO2004078599A22004-09-16
GB213374A1924-04-03
NL19751C
Primary Examiner:
THAKUR, VIREN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MKG LLC (MIDDLETOWN, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for assembling a nutritional meal and snack, comprising: defining a plurality of nutritional food and beverage groups within at least one of a recommended nutritional meal and snack; providing a plurality of food and beverage item options within each of the plurality of nutritional food and beverage groups; associating a portion of a character image with each of the plurality of nutritional food and beverage groups; associating a plurality of pictorial or graphic expressions of each of the portions of the character image, wherein one expression of the portion of the character image corresponds to one of the food and beverage item options; allowing a customer to choose one of the expressions for each of the portions of the character image such that a food and beverage item option for each of the plurality of nutritional food and beverage groups is chosen to form both of the at least one of the recommended nutritional meal and snack and a unique expression of a character image.

2. The method for assembling of claim 1, further including: placing the chosen expressions for each of the portions in a meal and snack package to display the unique expression of the character image.

3. The method of assembly of claim 1, wherein the step of defining the plurality of nutritional food and beverage groups further includes: defining groups within a nutritional meal as including an entrée, a fruit, a vegetable and a beverage; and defining groups within a nutritional snack as including a snack food and a beverage.

4. The method of assembly of claim 3, wherein the step of associating the portions of the character image for the nutritional meal includes: associating a head portion of the character to the entrée group; associating a body portion of the character to the fruit group; associating a legs portion of the character to the vegetable group; and associating a feet portion of the character to the beverage group.

5. The method of assembly of claim 4, wherein at least two of the head, body, legs and feet portions and corresponding entrée, fruit, vegetable and beverage groups are interchangeable.

6. The method of assembly of claim 3, wherein the step of associating the portions of the character image for the nutritional snack includes: associating a head and a body portion of the character to the snack food group; and associating a legs and a feet portion of the character to the beverage group.

7. A portable meal and snack package, comprising: a housing including a base portion, an integral side wall extending upwardly from the base portion and a lid portion coupled to the side wall, wherein the base portion and the side wall cooperate to define an internal chamber that is selectively opened and closed by the lid portion; and the internal chamber including a plurality of internal compartments suitably sized to contain and exhibit food and beverage item packages, the food and beverage item packages for storing food and beverage items, each of the food and beverage item packages including a display area for exhibiting one of a plurality of unique pictorial or graphic expressions of a character-based display scheme; wherein the character-based display scheme includes a plurality of character portions and a plurality of unique pictorial or graphic expressions of each of the character portions; wherein the food and beverage items include a plurality of predefined food groups and food and beverage options within the plurality of food groups; wherein the plurality of predefined food groups corresponds to the plurality of character portions, and wherein the food and beverage options within the plurality of food groups corresponds to the plurality of unique pictorial or graphic expressions of the character portions; wherein the selection and assembly of a food and beverage item package from each of the plurality of predefined food groups results in the assembly of a complete character image expression of the character-based display scheme and a nutritionally well balanced meal or snack.

8. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein package includes a plurality of windows corresponding to the plurality of internal compartments for revealing contents of the compartments.

9. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein the plurality of character portions includes a head portion, a body portion, a legs portion and a feet portion.

10. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein the plurality of expressions of each of the character portions includes portions to form a character including at least one of a monster, an alien, a cartoon image of an animal, a pirate, a wizard or a witch, a mad scientist, an athlete, an action figure, a prince or princess, and like characters of interest to children and adolescents.

11. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein the plurality of predefined food groups include at least one of an entrée, a fruit option, a vegetable option and a beverage option.

12. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein the plurality of internal compartments are comprised of four internal compartments.

13. The meal and snack package of claim 12, wherein the four internal compartments contain and exhibit at least one of an entrée, a fruit option, a vegetable option and a beverage option.

14. The meal and snack package of claim 7, wherein the plurality of internal compartments is comprised of two internal compartments.

15. The meal and snack package of claim 14, wherein the two internal compartments contain and exhibit at least one of a snack food option and a beverage option.

Description:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material, which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the United States Patent and Trademark Office files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to systems and methods for the interactive assembly of a customized and nutritional meal and/or snack including food and/or beverages.

2. Description of Related Art

Research has shown that a large number of the top health problems in society are either caused in whole or in part by an unhealthy lifestyle. Many people in our society lead fast-paced, achievement-oriented lifestyles that often result in poor eating habits, high stress levels, lack of exercise, and poor sleep habits. Additionally, poor nutrition has lead to a rise in the levels of obesity and body weight issues in general. These issues are reaching epidemic proportions within a large segment of the population and, most notably, with children and adolescents. For example, research has shown that sixteen percent (16%) of children and adolescents are overweight and thirty-four percent (34%) are at risk of being overweight. The number of children who are overweight has tripled over the past two decades. Less than three percent (3%) of children and adolescents reached an adequate intake of fiber, while only thirty-six percent (36%) eat the recommended number of vegetables and twenty-six percent (26%) eat the recommended number of fruits. Moreover, many children and adolescents have inadequate intakes of calcium and up to ninety-two percent (92%) of these children and adolescents are females from ages nine to eighteen (9-18).

While research has highlighted these deficiencies, research has also shown the benefits of appropriate intake of fruit and vegetable in terms of better bone mass, improved respiratory health, decreased in body mass index (BMI) and asthma risk, as well as beneficial effects on blood pressure. Recognizing these benefits, people and parents, in particular, are becoming increasingly interested in establishing a healthier lifestyle both for themselves and their children. However, even when efforts are made to improve the nutrition of our children and adolescents, parents often face another dilemma. For example, children want to be in charge of their own food choices. So, while a parent wants to ensure that their children are eating healthy meals, it is apparent that to be successful, children must be involved in the food selection process.

Accordingly, the inventor has discovered that a need exists for both a healthy and nutritional line of food and beverage products that specifically addresses the needs of the pediatric population and for systems and methods for the interactive assembly of food and beverage products in a manner that enables a child to select (or assist in the selection of) items to eat and drink in meals and snacks.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a method for assembling a nutritional meal and snack, and a package for the same. The method includes defining nutritional food and beverage groups within a recommended nutritional meal or snack, and providing food and beverage item options within each of the food and beverage groups. In one embodiment, groups within a nutritional meal include an entré, a fruit, a vegetable and a beverage, and groups within a nutritional snack include a snack food and a beverage. The method further includes associating a portion of a character image with each of the food and beverage groups. In one embodiment, portions of the character image for a meal include a head portion, a body portion, a legs portion and a feet portion, and portions of the character image for a snack include a head and body portion and a legs and feet portion. The method also includes associating pictorial or graphic expressions of each of the character image portions to the food and beverage item options such that one expression of the character portion corresponds to one of the food and beverage options. In one embodiment, the expressions of each of the character portions includes portions to form a character including at least one of a monster, an alien, a cartoon image of an animal, a pirate, a wizard or a witch, a mad scientist, an athlete, an action figure, a prince or princess, and like characters of interest to children and adolescents. The method further allows a customer to choose one of the expressions such that a food and beverage item option for each of the food and beverage groups is chosen to form both of the nutritional meal or snack and a unique expression of a character image.

The present invention also includes a portable meal and snack package to contain the assembled meal or snack. The meal and snack package includes a housing having a base portion, an integral side wall extending upwardly from the base portion and a lid portion coupled to the side wall. The base portion and the side wall cooperate to define an internal chamber that is selectively opened and closed by the lid portion. The internal chamber includes a plurality of internal compartments suitably sized to contain and exhibit food and beverage item packages. The food and beverage item packages store food and beverage items. Each of the food and beverage item packages includes a display area for exhibiting one of a plurality of expressions of a character-based display scheme.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the character-based display scheme includes a plurality of character portions and the plurality of pictorial or graphic expressions of each of the character portions. The food and beverage items include a plurality of predefined food groups and food and beverage options within the plurality of food groups. The plurality of predefined food groups corresponds to the plurality of character portions, and the food and beverage options within the plurality of food groups corresponds to the plurality of expressions of the character portions. As such, when selecting and assembling a food and beverage item package from each of the plurality of predefined food groups, a person assembles both a complete character image and a nutritionally well balanced meal.

In one embodiment, a portion of the meal package includes a plurality of windows corresponding to the plurality of internal compartments. The windows reveal contents of the compartments and thus, the assembled character image.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the plurality of predefined food groups corresponds to the plurality of character portions, and the food and beverage options within the plurality of food groups corresponds to the plurality of expressions of the character portions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features and advantages of the present invention will be better understood when the Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments given below is considered in conjunction with the figures provided, wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates an interactive dispensing system 10, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, for facilitating the assembly of customizable and nutritional meals and/or snacks including food and/or beverages by consumers;

FIGS. 2A-2C illustrate meal and snack packages, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention, for containing and exhibiting selected food and/or beverage items that together form a nutritional meal or snack;

FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate food and/or beverage item containers, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, to provide individual portions of a nutritional meal or snack;

FIG. 4 illustrates a plurality of exemplary indicia that identify food and/or beverage groups and options within the groups, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, that are selectively assembled to form a nutritional meal or snack;

FIG. 5 illustrates different food and beverage item options and corresponding character portions that are selected to define customized, balanced and nutritional meals and snacks for a consumer; and

FIG. 6 illustrates a meal and snack package, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, for containing and exhibiting selected food and/or beverage items that together form a nutritional meal or snack.

In these figures like structures are assigned like reference numerals, but may not be referenced in the description of all figures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

One aspect of the present invention resides in systems and methods for the interactive assembly of customized nutritional meals and/or snacks including food and/or beverages items. The present invention provides mechanisms by which a customer chooses food and/or beverage items in a manner so as to maximize the customer's experience in assembling a nutritional meal and/or snack while also creating a unique expression of a character image so that the customer will have a greater emotional involvement in the meal and/or snack than would be the case had the meal and/or snack merely been provided to the customer in a preassembled form. It should be appreciated that while described and illustrated as systems and methods for an interactive assembly of nutritional meals and/or snacks including food and/or beverage products, the scope of the present invention may be varied by those skilled in the art and used as an interactive assembly and packaging system for use in dispensing other forms of product and merchandise to children of all ages by using an inventive correlation of products and merchandise to character images and portions thereof.

FIG. 1 illustrates an interactive dispensing system 10, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, for facilitating the assembly by consumers of customizable and nutritional meals and snacks including food and/or beverages. The interactive dispensing system 10 includes a base assembly, shown generally at 20, and an upright housing assembly, shown generally at 50, supported by the base assembly 20. In one embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 1, the base assembly 20 includes food and/or beverage storage areas 22, as are typically seen in a supermarket, grocery, deli, convenience store, fast food chain, and like retail environments. In this regard, the housing assembly 50 may be selectively coupled to an existing base unit in the retailer environment. In one embodiment, the housing assembly 50 is coupled to a base assembly 20 in a produce area of a supermarket. It should be appreciated, however, that the base assembly 20 is not limited in this regard. For example, in other embodiments, the base assembly 20 may include a counter top, table top or stand that does not include the food and/or beverage storage areas. Alternatively, the interactive dispensing system 10 is provided within a portion of an existing fixture of the retail environment such as, for example, a portion of a refrigerated case, shelf and the like.

As shown in FIG. 1, in one embodiment the housing assembly 50 includes a surface or shelf 52 for facilitating assembly of customized nutritional meal and snack packages 80 (as described below), a header 54, a container and/or carton sleeve storage and dispensing area 56 and a plurality of food and/or beverage item storage and dispensing areas 60. In one embodiment, the header 54 includes a graphic display for identifying the inventive dispensing system 10, promoting a product brand and encouraging participation and repeat sales. In one embodiment the header 54, as well as other components of the housing assembly 50, are decorated to advance a particular theme. Themes may include, for example, a character based theme as is described in detail below, designed to encourage customer participation and increased emotional involvement in the process of selecting food and beverage items for inclusion in a meal or snack. The sleeve storage and dispensing area 56 contains and provides to consumers an inventory of the meal and snack packages 80. In one embodiment, the meal and snack packages 80 are stored in a compacted, folded or stowed configuration. When selected a meal and snack package 80 is expanded, unfolded or otherwise assembled to provide areas for storing a customized and nutritional meal or snack. In one embodiment, the housing assembly 50 includes a recycling area for receiving previously used meal and snack packages 80 and/or food and beverage item packages (as are described below). In this regard, consumers and, in particular, children, adolescents and young adults are encouraged to recycle and adopt environmentally friendly habits. In another embodiment, the meal and snack package 80 is a fabricated structure such as, for example, a molded, pressed or welded plastic or metal housing, or a fabric bag, as described below, that is reusable by consumers for a plurality of different meals and/or snacks over a prolonged period of time.

The plurality of food and/or beverage item storage and dispensing areas 60 each comprises a plurality of shelves or channels 62 for storing and dispensing by, for example, a gravity feed, as is generally known in the art, selected nutritional food and/or beverages item packages 100 as are described in greater detail below. As shown in FIG. 1, each of the plurality of food and/or beverage item storage and dispensing areas 60 further includes a forward, substantially vertical wall portion 64. The forward wall portion 64 includes indicia 66 such as, for example, a character-based display scheme or portion thereof, of interest to particular members of the consuming public and, most notably, children and adolescents. In one embodiment, the indicia 66 includes a portion of a character image (e.g., pictorial or graphic representations of a head portion, a body portion, a legs portion, and feet portion of a character) that are selectively assembled to form a complete character image such as, for example, a fictional character like a monster, an alien, a cartoon image of an animal, a pirate, a wizard or witch, mad scientist, action figure, prince or princess, as well as actual or fictional characters such as an athlete, musician, actor or actress, performer, or like characters of interest to children and/or adolescents. In one embodiment, the indicia 66 displayed on the wall portion 64 corresponds to indicia 120 disposed about the food and/or beverage item packages 100, as described below.

It should be appreciated that while presented in terms of a character-based display scheme, it is within the scope of the present invention for the indicia 66, 120 to employ other themes for relating nutritional food groups and food items within the groups to a targeted consumer base in a way that promotes and encourages both healthy eating habits and participation in meal and/or snack selection by children, adolescents and young adults. Such themes may include, for example, word and/or number games, puzzle pieces, and the like. The inventor has recognized that by involving children, adolescents and young adults in the actual process of choosing healthy and nutritional food items for inclusion in meals and snacks, maximizes the child, adolescent and young adult's experience in assembling a meal and/or snack with unique attributes (e.g., more desirable food items) while also creating a unique pictorial or graphic expression of a character image that can be a source of pride and/or accomplishment such that the child, adolescent and young adult has greater emotional involvement in the meal and/or snack and is therefore more willing to consume the nutritional and healthy food items that he/she selected than would be the case had such items been merely thrust upon the child, adolescent and young adult and that person told to eat or drink it.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the food and/or beverage items are supplied to and arranged by consumers to provide a nutritionally balanced meal and/or snack for themselves or those in their care. In one embodiment, the meal and/or snack includes predefined food groups such as, for example, an entrée, a fruit option, a vegetable option and a drink option selected to be both desirable and nutritious for the intended consumer and/or those in their care such as, for example, children, adolescents and young adults. Entrée items include, for example, curly pasta with sauce (e.g., “pig tail” pasta), salmon croqs (e.g., salmon and sweet potato croquettes), and turkey roll ups. Fruit options include, for example, apple sauce, fruit cocktail, and mandarin orange slices. Vegetable options include, for example, green beans with dip, baby carrots with dip and mixed bell peppers with dip. Drink options may include, for example, milk and other dairy products, soy drinks and other soy based products, and one hundred percent (100%) fruit juice fortified with thirty percent (30%) daily value for calcium. While described as including the aforementioned food and beverage groups and options within the groups it should be appreciated that the present invention is not limited in this regard as other groups and options with various nutritional portions, elements, and attributes within groups can be included without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Accordingly, a balanced meal or snack includes items from the above groupings such as, for example:

Example Balanced Meal 1:

    • Pigtails
    • Applesauce
    • Green beans
    • Milk (one percent (1%) or low fat)

Example Balanced Meal 2:

    • Turkey Roll Up
    • Fruit cocktail
    • Bell peppers
    • Chocolate soy milk

Example Balanced Meal 3:

    • Pigtails
    • Mandarin oranges
    • Baby carrots
    • Fruit juice

Example Balanced Meal 4:

    • Salmon croqs
    • Fruit cocktail
    • Bell peppers
    • Vanilla soy milk

Example Balanced Meal 5:

    • Turkey Roll Up
    • Mandarin oranges
    • Baby carrots
    • Fruit juice

It should be appreciated that a wide variety of balanced meals and snacks can be assembled using the predetermined groupings to ensure that consumers are selecting healthy and nutritional options.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the aforementioned food and beverage groups, for example, the entrée, the fruit option, the vegetable option and the beverage or drink option, correspond to the character-based indicia 66, 120 that describes, for example, the head portion, body portion, legs portion and feet portion of the characters. Moreover, the options within each of the food and beverage groups corresponds to a different image within the categories of character-based indicia 66, 120, for example, a unique pictorial or graphic expression of the head portion, body portion, legs portion and feet portion of characters within the dispensing system 10. For example, the entrée curly pasta with sauce may correspond to a character's head that resembles a dinosaur, salmon croqs may correspond to a character's head that resembles an alien creature, and the entrée turkey roll ups may correspond to a character's head that resembles a funny or scary animal character. Additionally, the fruit option apple sauce may correspond to a character's body portion that resembles a lizard's body, the fruit option fruit cocktail may correspond to a character's body portion wearing a team jersey, and so on. Accordingly, when a consumer selectively assembles a character image including a head portion (e.g., entrée), a body portion (e.g., fruit option), a leg portion (e.g., vegetable option) and feet portion (e.g., drink option), the result of that assembly is both the creation of a unique character image but also the creation of a nutritionally well balanced meal or snack. FIG. 4 depicts a plurality of exemplary pictorial or graphic character expressions that correspond to the character-based indicia 66, 120. As can be appreciated, it is within the scope of the present invention to mix and match different food and/or beverage groups and options and, thus, mix and match different expressions of character images of the various character body portions (e.g., the head portion, body portion, legs portion and feet portion of characters). It should be appreciated that the present invention is not limited either by the food and/or beverage grouping and options or by the division of characters' body or the expressions of the characters corresponding thereto. For example, in one embodiment, the food and beverage groups and character-based indicia 66, 120 define a plurality of groupings and portions of character (e.g., more and less than the above described four groupings) such as two groups including a food item and a beverage items to comprise a snack, and character-based indicia 66, 120 including an upper portion of the character (e.g., head and body) and a lower portion of the character (e.g., legs and feet).

FIGS. 2A, 2B and 6 illustrate embodiments of the meal and snack package 80. As shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the meal and snack package 80 is comprised of a housing 81 having a base portion 83, integral side wall 85 extending upwardly from the base portion 83 and a lid portion 87 coupled to the side wall 85. The base portion 83 and the side wall 85 cooperate to define an internal chamber 89 that is selectively opened and closed by the lid portion 87. In one embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the lid portion 87 is comprised of a flexible handle 84 having a first portion 84a and a second portion 84b that are opened and closed to provided and inhibit access to the internal chamber 89, respectively. In one embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 6, a meal and snack package 80′ is comprised of a housing 81′ having a base portion 83′, integral side wall 85′ extending upwardly from the base portion 83′ and a lid portion 87′ coupled to the side wall 85′. As shown in FIG. 6, the lid portion 87′ of the meal and snack package 80′ is coupled to a first portion 83a′ of the side wall 83′ by a hinge 91 such that when the lid portion 87′ is rotated toward a second portion 83b′ of the side wall 83′ an internal chamber 89′ of the housing 81′ is closed and when the lid portion 87′ is rotated away from the second portion 83b′ of the side wall 83′ the internal chamber 89′ is open. In yet another embodiment, the lid portion 87′ is a separate component that is mounted (e.g., press or snap fit) on the side walls 85′ to close the internal chamber 89′.

In accordance with the present invention, the housings 81 and 81′ or, more appropriately, the internal chambers 89 and 89′, include a plurality of internal compartments 82 and 82′ for containing and exhibiting selected food and/or beverage item packages 100 that together form a nutritional meal or snack. In one embodiment, the meal and snack packages 80 and 80′ each include a handle portion, shown generally at 84 and 84′, such that the meal and snack packages 80 and 80′ may be carried such as one carries a conventional lunch box or lunch bag. As shown in FIG. 2B, the food and/or beverage item packages 100 are disposed within the meal and snack package 80 such that the character-based indicia 120 on the package 100 is visible through a plurality of windows or cutouts 86 revealing the contents of the internal compartments 82. As shown in FIG. 6, the meal and snack package 80′ similarly includes a plurality of windows 86′ for revealing the character-based indicia 120 on the packages 100 disposed in the internal compartments 82′.

In one embodiment, the meal and snack package or carton 80 is comprised of a recyclable and/or reusable paper product such as, for example, corrugated cardboard, that may be stored flat (such as within the container and/or carton sleeve storage and dispensing area 56) and easily configured to provide the internal compartments 82 for storing and carrying the selected food and/or beverage item packages 100. As described above, it should be appreciated that while FIGS. 2A, 2B and 6 include four internal compartments 82 and 82′, it is within the scope of the present invention for the meal and snack packages 80 and 80′ to include more or less than four compartments. For example, in one embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2C a meal and snack package 80″ includes two internal compartments 82″ for storing and exhibiting two food and/or beverage item packages 100 such as a snack food item and a beverage item.

In one embodiment, the meal and snack packages 80, 80′ and 80″ include indicia disposed thereon and/or therein to instruct, teach, demonstrate and/or suggest to persons using the packages 80, 80′ and 80″ (e.g., parents, adolescents, and children) what items should be assembled within the meal and snack packages 80, 80′ and 80″ to construct a healthy and nutritionally complete meal and/or snack. For example, in one embodiment, each of the internal compartments 82 and 82′ include indicia 92 and 92′ such as, for example, textual or graphical instructions, demonstrating the type of food item that should be placed in the individual compartment as well as nutritional information corresponding thereto. For example, a first one of the compartments 82 and 82′ may include indicia 92 such as a text or graphic depiction of a head portion of a character indicating that an entrée should be placed in the compartment, a next one of the compartments 82 and 82′ may include indicia such as a text or graphic depiction of a body portion of a character indicating that a fruit option should be placed in the compartment, a next compartment may include a text or graphic depiction of a leg portion of a character indicating that a vegetable option should be placed in the compartment, and a last one of the compartments 82 and 82′ may include a text or graphic depiction of a feet portion of a character indicating that a drink option should be placed in the compartment.

Accordingly, the present invention includes providing information to educate and present to persons using the meal and snack packages 80, 80′ and 80″ nutritional guidance indicia 92 and 92′ with respect to, for example, nutritional portions, elements, and attributes of food options (e.g., the aforementioned food and beverage options) and serving sizes corresponding thereto, in groupings for assembly within the meal and snack packages 80, 80′ and 80″ in order to create a nutritionally balanced and healthy meal and snack. In one embodiment, exemplary groupings include:

Group 1: Beverage, of about six to eight ounces (6-8 oz.), recommended for providing about twenty to thirty percent (20-30%) of a daily value (DV) of calcium and having under one hundred (100) calories.

Group 2: Fruit, having about sixty (60) calories, including one option from choices such as, for example:

    • One (1) medium sized fruit, or
    • One half (½) cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit, preferably unsweetened or with fruit juice sweetened only.

Group 3: Vegetable, including one option from choices such as, for example:

    • One (1) cup of a leafy vegetable, or
    • One half (½) cup of a cut up raw or cooked vegetable, or
    • One quarter (¼) cup of cooked chick peas, beans, edamame (soy), other legumes,
    • And, a dipping sauce in, for example, a two (2) tablespoon container, such as a non-fat dressing or dip.

Group 4: Entrée, select one (1) protein, and one (1) whole grain option from choices:

Protein Options for Group 4, recommended one hundred (100) calories and under, including one (1) option from choices such as, for example:

    • Two ounces (2 oz.) of a cooked low fat meat, chicken, or turkey (e.g., about two (2) slices), or
    • One (1) tablespoon of peanut or other nut butter, or
    • One and one half ounces (1½ oz.) of low fat natural cheese (e.g., cubes of a size of about three (3) dice), or
    • One quarter (¼) cup of cooked beans, or

Two ounces (2 oz.) of salmon or other fish (e.g., about two thirds (⅔) of the size of a deck of playing cards).

Whole Grain Options for Group 4, recommended one hundred and fifty (150) calories and under, including one (1) option from choices such as, for example:

    • A six and one half (6½) inch wheat pita, or
    • One half (½) cup of cooked brown rice, or
    • One or two (1-2) slices of a whole grain bread, or
    • A six (6) inch tortilla, or
    • One half (½) cup of a cooked whole grain pasta, or
    • One half ounce (½ oz.) of almonds or other nut (e.g., about one eighth (⅛) cup)

Additional Options for Group 4, include one (1) optional fat from choices such as, for example:

    • Two (2) teaspoons of a light mayonnaise, or
    • One (1) teaspoon of oil, or
    • One (1) teaspoon of butter.

It should be appreciated that the aforementioned nutrient portions, elements, and attributes in the aforementioned groupings (e.g., Groups 1-4) are selected to address common deficiencies found in a child's diet. Moreover, the nutrients that are focused on include, for example, fiber, fruits, vegetables and calcium. Thus, in one embodiment, each meal has a fruit serving, a vegetable serving, whole grains serving, a protein serving, and a beverage serving, preferably high in calcium, and a caloric goal of approximately five hundred (500) calories per meal, thereby for a sixteen hundred (1,600) calorie a day plan that equals about thirty percent (30%) of the daily requirement. Accordingly at least one nutrition education goal of the present invention is to teach children and adolescents (and/or their caregivers) that a fruit and vegetable is to accompany each meal, as well as one of a fruit and vegetable is to accompany at a snack.

It should also be appreciated that a wide variety of balanced meals and snacks can be assembled using the predetermined groupings, and options with various nutritional portions, elements, and attributes within groups, to ensure that consumers are selecting healthy and nutritional options. While described as including the aforementioned food and beverage groups and options with the indicated nutritional portions, elements, and attributes within groups, it should be appreciated that the present invention is not limited in this regard as other groups and options with various nutritional portions, elements, and attributes within groups can be included without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

It should be appreciated that it is within the scope of the present invention for the indicia 92 and 92′ to provide nutritional information so that food and/or beverage items can be made at home, for example. In such a home use embodiment, food and/or beverage item packages 100 may be reusable such that a parent, child or adolescent, may repeatedly assembly healthy and nutritionally complete meals and snacks for consumption. In one embodiment, the indicia 92 includes information to direct a consumer to other sources of healthy and nutritional information such as, for example, a book or other publication, a website, a movie, television or other broadcast media.

As described therein, the result of such an assembly is both the creation of a character image and the creation of a nutritionally well balanced meal or snack. While described above as constructed in terms of an entree option, followed by a fruit option, followed by a vegetable option, and then followed by a drink option, it is within the scope of the present invention to vary the order in which compartments and character portions relate to specific ones of the illustrated food groups. Moreover, it should be appreciated that while shown stacked in a single column it is within the scope of the present invention for the meal packages 80 and 80′ and the internal compartments 82 and 82′ to include other arrangements and/or configurations for presenting the food and/or beverage item packages 100 and character-based indicia 120 thereon.

FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate one embodiment of the food and/or beverage item packages 100. As shown, each of the packages 100 includes a recyclable and/or reusable sleeve 102 such as, for example, a paper or plastic sleeve and either a food container 104 or a drink container 106. As described below, the sleeve 102 includes the character-based indicia 120. In one embodiment, each of the sleeves 102 has a detachable feature such as, for example, perorated edges, peal-off label, or the like, such that the character-based indicia 120 (e.g., portions of the character image) may be removed from the sleeve 102 and collected, swapped and/or traded, or otherwise played with by consumers. The food container 104 and drink container 106 have a common footprint (length, width and height) to facilitate stacking and the gravity feed dispensing mechanism. In one embodiment, the food container 104 is comprised of a paper or plastic material. In one embodiment, the food container 104 is formed of a plastic that is suitable for heating in, for example, a microwave oven or the like. In one embodiment, the drink container 106 is formed of a tetra-brick aseptic beverage package, as is generally known in the art, having a resealable lid or cap, and suitably sized to contain about six to eight (6.0-8.0) ounces of a beverage. In other embodiments, the food container 104 and beverage container 106 are comprised of different materials, and containers comprised of any material may be sized to contain quantities of food or beverage products the same as, or different than, the aforementioned quantities. It is within the scope of the present invention for such containers to be formed in an environmentally friendly manner (e.g., formed of recycled and/or recyclable materials), however, the invention is not limited in this regard.

As shown in FIG. 5, the compartments 82 of the meal and snack package 80 are configured such that the character-based indicia 120 of each food and/or beverage item package 100 is visible through the windows 86 of the meal and snack package 80. As depicted in FIG. 5, different food and beverage item options and corresponding character portions may be selected to define a customized character image and thus a well balanced meal or snack for the consumer and/or those in their care.

A few perceived advantages and benefits achieved from aspects of the present invention are seen to include:

GoalHow Achieved
Encourage HealthProvide healthy, organic or natural
snack and meal alternatives for children.
Optimal NutritionHelp children reach their daily goal
for vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, fruits
and vegetables.
ConvenienceProvide a convenient “travel pack”
of healthy food and drink.
PreventionPrevent the consumption of excess
fat and sugar that can lead to being
overweight.
AppealCapitalize on the fun, “toy-like”
appeal to engage children so that they want
to eat healthy and participate in the process
of building a well balanced meal or snack.

In one aspect of the present invention, the character-based indicia 120 disposed on the sleeve 102 and/or containers 104, 106 include at least one of a nutritional message and a code. In one embodiment, the message and code are exhibited, printed and/or embossed on a back surface of the indicia 120 so that the message and code are not readily apparent to consumers without removing the indicia 120 from the sleeve 102 and/or containers 104, 106. In one embodiment, the code allows access to a proprietary website (e.g., URL on the worldwide web portion of the Internet). In one embodiment, the website provides an interactive educational and/or amusement related environment including, for example, games, social communication, networking and other interaction, to consumers. In one embodiment, the website promotes and encourages healthy eating, fitness, stewardship and responsible behavior toward nature and preservation of natural resources, animals, mankind, and the like. In one embodiment, consumers are encouraged to register, name the character images that they created and share the nutritional meals and/or snacks that they developed using the “mix and match” process of the present invention. In one embodiment, a sponsor or sponsors of the website, book or other publication, television, movie or other broadcast, and the like, encourages entry into a competition where consumers can win a prize or award for the most innovative and healthy meal, snack, and/or environmental project.

Although described in the context of preferred embodiments, it should be realized that a number of modifications to these teachings may occur to one skilled in the art. Accordingly, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.