Sarah Mummah: Vegetable Nudger

A conversation with Sarah Mummah, founder of DreamCatchers and Ph.D. candidate in behavioral science at University of Cambridge and Stanford University

by Lisa Van Dusen / Palo Alto Weekly

Caution: being near Sarah Mummah can cause healthy habits to form because she believes that if you can change people's behaviors, you can change the world. A self-described minimalist, she runs, writes and eats vegetables.

Now a Gates Scholar in public health and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, Mummah's masters thesis was entitled "Do 'Nudge' Interventions in Schools Increase Healthier Eating Behaviors?"

Mummah's current work centers around her mobile phone. She created — with the help of Stanford Medicine, Vendus Product Labs, and the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab — a mobile app called Vegethon that "enables swift and delightful vegetable tracking" and is designed to improve dietary habits and long-term health. The app is now in a randomized control trial. You can compete with yourself or others to eat more vegetables or try a three-day sprint to try to maximize the leafy greens you consume or go on a wing ding with vegetable variety. Think "you like onions? Try fennel!"

A Silicon Valley native, Mummah attended Stanford, graduating in 2010 with a bushel of awards and a degree in human biology. She then spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Oaxaca, Mexico, researching health behavior change.

At 19, Mummah founded DreamCatchers, a nonprofit after-school program for middle school students from low-income families in Palo Alto, aiming to enable all students to reach their potential. Despite Palo Alto's resource-rich school majority, 5 percent of the district's students live below the poverty line. DreamCatchers' premise is that students need both educational and healthy eating support to thrive academically, socially and physically.

Mummah spends her days in pursuit of ways to make it easier for these middle school students — and everyone else — to make big changes with bite-sized steps.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen

Video, Veronica Weber

Production manager, Taylor Shoolery

This conversation took place  on February 26th, 2015