Top Stories of 2012: The power of kids

December 31, 2012

We are highly concerned about the food habits of today's youth. From The Lempert Report's top stories of 2012, we revisit Martha Payne, 9 year-old blogger, that showed us kids have a powerful message for the food world.

Nine year-old Martha Payne in Scotland has made worldwide headlines through her blog NeverSeconds which has received over 5 million page visits and has allowed her to generate more than $120,000 for a charity called Mary’s Meals that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. And she goes by “Veg,” a nickname she created for herself after her father described her as Veritas Ex Gustu, which in Latin means “truth from tasting.”

Payne’s blog is about school food – the good, the bad, and the ugly. In April, she began taking photos of the meals served at her schools and added her personal review which included a number rating based on things like health, price, mouthfuls, and even pieces of hair. Her blog was so impactful that a Scottish newspaper ran a story about her blog, which then led to school officials ordering the student to cease posting photos of her lunch on her blog. That decision was reversed, and she is back in business.

People around the world have become involved in Payne’s blog, including celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who tweets in her support. And although most people will read about the unappetizing, barely edible meals she has blogged about, what they will learn from actually visiting her blog is that there’s a lot of positive posts about great food service in schools, including contributions from other students from around the globe.

So what can the adults learn from Payne? Let’s consider first the abilities of these exceptional youth.

You’d be living under a rock if you didn’t notice how tech savvy our current generation of youth has become. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project 95 percent of all teens ages 12-17 are now online, and 80 percent of online teens are users of social media sites. And recent reports have revealed that Facebook is now developing a way to involve children under 13 under parental supervision. 

So kids know how to use computers, but that’s not all. They aren’t just chit chatting online about kids stuff. Many of them have a message. For example, 16 year-old Alex Simko from Illinois has campaigned since 2005 for food allergy guidelines in school, succeeding at state and national levels. Check out her video interview on Food News Today.

While the media may be giving much attention to banning junk food advertisements aimed at children in order to protect them from an obesity epidemic, and the adults continue to debate over what should be served at school and what should be outlawed, perhaps, the healthy eating habits we want our kids to embrace are better promoted by kids themselves.

And as a supermarket, where many kids accompany mom and dad to do the shopping, the thoughts of today’s youth in addition to their social media prowess, are something stores can learn from and put their feedback to good use by involving them more in your store’s promotions, special programs, and connection with the community. Keep in mind, as easy as it may be for a child’s negative opinion to go viral, a positive message can have the same impact.