Hackathon for health

April 1, 2014, 3:00 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Can America hack its way to healthier kids?

The Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit organization founded in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, seems to think so. Last month, as part of its Building a Healthier Future Summit, the PHA held an “innovation challenge” to bring together designers, developers, stakeholders, and entrepreneurs to develop apps and other tech-based tools to help schools and families teach kids about healthy eating choices and fitness.

The organizers divided the participants into different teams, each of which had a weekend to develop a product or service aimed at reducing childhood obesity. The challenge culminated in an “elevator pitch” contest at the summit on March 13. (Full disclosure: Time Inc., Fortune’s parent, was a media sponsor of the Building a Healthier Future Summit, and I served on the panel providing commentary on the presentations.)

The winning entry, Team Start A Garden, developed a digital tool to help teachers plan and develop curricula around school gardens. Studies show that school gardens have multiple benefits, from teaching students about plant science and agriculture, to instilling a sense of responsibility. Students who participate in school garden projects discover fresh food, and teachers report that students become increasingly interested in eating what they grow.

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The team members came from all walks of life. Mandy and Kirk Curry are the founders of Healthy Kids Inc., a West Virginia-based meal planning company. Designer Nicole Mercer is co-founder and chief creative officer for Thryve, a digital food coach. And developer Ameer Baksh is a sophomore at the Academy for Software Engineering, a high school in Manhattan.

Mandy Curry, who led the on-stage presentation at the Summit, says the response to the Start A Garden concept has been “overwhelming.”

“We feel like we can’t get this built quick enough,” she says.

Indeed, software and apps devoted to health and fitness are on the rise, and venture firms have poured tens of millions of dollars into upstarts aiming to track and analyze consumers’ food-consumption and fitness schedules.

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Designer Mercer says the team is now developing a panel of advisers, including experts the participants met at the hackathon and Summit.

Start A Garden still has many question to answer, such as whether it will operate as a for-profit business or a non-profit endeavor, and whether the founders will seek private funding or pursue sponsors.

Tenth-grader Baksh says the potential opportunity to launch a digital service is exciting. Baksh, who says he wasn’t even interested in programming until he enrolled in the Academy for Software Engineering, created the website that Start A Garden showed at the Summit. (“I was able to accomplish this using Google Sites. Although I do know how to code in HTML, Python, and Java. I thought that Google Sites would be the best thing to use due to the time constraints,” he writes in an email.)

“When my group and I won the contest, the first thing I felt was shock and then a flooding wave of excitement. I couldn’t believe how far we had come in that short amount of time and all of the work we had all put in,” he says. “Then it hit me that we were going to try and make this project into something real, and I felt ecstatic at what is to come down the road.”