Ten year-old Martha Payne of Scotland made worldwide headlines through NeverSeconds, her daily blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly of school food. It started simply enough: In April of last year Payne began taking photos of the meals served at her school and added her personal reviews, including a number rating based on things like health, price, mouthfuls, and even pieces of hair.
From there things skyrocketed: Her blog was so impactful that a Scottish newspaper ran a story about it, 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 in a staggering way. To date her blog has received over 5 million page visits, allowing her to generate more than $120,000 for a charity that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.
And then there is Alex Simko, a student from Illinois who started as a preteen in 2005 campaigning for food allergy guidelines in school, and has successfully spearheaded legislation at both the state and national levels.
So what should we learn from these 'new' food leaders?
The answer is passion! We are witnessing new generations of passionate, food-savvy kids.
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.
For the owners of IGA supermarkets, where kids have always been an important part of the shopping experience, you have an advantage. You're a part of the community. You already know the families who shop in your stores. Now all you have to do is take the time to listen to the kids themselves and learn from what they have to say (think kid suggestion boxes with checkmark forms, Saturday afternoon "focus groups" with kids' activities, and partnerships with schools to ask for kids' ideas). From there, it's a simple process to put their feedback to good use by involving them more in your IGA's marketing events, special programs, and your communication to the community (think kid-friendly signage, newsletter messages, website pages, and social media posts).
Keep in mind, as easy as it may be for a child's negative opinion to go viral, a positive message can have even more impact when it does the same. Now it's up to you to help generate those messages by showing your communities' kids that their opinions matter!