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Food Blogger Tackles the Issue of Unhealthy School Lunches


She is a school speech pathologist by day and an anonymous food blogger by night, until she recently revealed her identity on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Known as “Mrs. Q” on her food blog Fed Up With Lunch, teacher Sarah Wu was ready (well kind 0f) to reveal herself and her mission to make school lunches healthier. For a year she ordered lunch from her school’s cafeteria and snapped a picture of it.

It all started when she forgot her lunch one day and had to buy one from the cafeteria. She told GMA “It was barely recognizable as food”. She found out the chicken nuggets were only 50 percent chicken, as well as a whole hosts of many other unpleasing tidbits of info about her school’s lunches.

Wu never intended for the blog to get as much attention as it did, but she hit a chord with parents. Not only was she shocked to see what the school was serving (and for some kids this was their only meal of the day) but the parents were shocked as well.

It was in December of 2010 that she ate her last school lunch. I love what she says in her post about going with your gut. She had a crazy impulse to start a blog on something she was passionate about, and now she has her own book, a successful blog and is helping her students inch one step closer to healthier lunches in their school.

Watch her interview on GMA in this video clip below.

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Is there a blog that you’ve been wanting to start but you just needed a little push? Consider this your little push. Go for it! You truly have no idea where it could lead you or what it could do for others.

Image: SXC

ConAgra’s Blogger Campaign Backfires, Bloggers Not Happy


Have you seen the Pizza Hut hidden camera commercials where it shows the surprise on people’s faces when they are told the pasta they are eating is from Pizza Hut and not some fancy Italian restaurant?

Well, it seemed to work okay for Pizza Hut, but ConAgra tried something very similar with a group of food and mom bloggers in NYC and it didn’t go as planned. In fact, the bloggers aren’t one bit happy about the event.

To make a long story short, several bloggers received this email from the PR company Ketchum who were handling the ConAgra blogger campaign:

We would like to invite you to an exclusive underground restaurant, Sotto Terra, with George Duran and Phil Lempert in New York City – only open from August 23-27, 2011. Please see the attached invitation for details – we hope you join us!

Most of the bloggers knew there would be a catch of some sort, but what they didn’t realize is that the four course meal they were promised was actually the Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna by Marie Callender’s, a frozen line from ConAgra. Hidden cameras were placed around the dinner, meant to capture reactions from the bloggers eating the lasagna, as well as the Razzleberry Pie, also from Marie Callender’s.

Stephanie Moritz, senior director of public relations and social media at ConAgra, told The New York Times the plan was to use these hidden camera reactions as promotional videos for YouTube and their website.

Here are a couple of reactions from the bloggers who attended the event:

From MomConfessionals: “Our entire meal was a SHAM! We were unwilling participants in a bait-and-switch for Marie Callender’s new frozen three cheese lasagna and there were cameras watching our reactions.  I’ve got a sense of humor so I was okay with it and I had been enjoying myself up until that point, but I could tell that the rest of the participants were not.  Everyone feigned weak shock and faked approval of the frozen meal.  My guests were eager to leave all of a sudden and refused to sign the release.  I felt awful!” – read the entire post here.

From Chubby Chinese Girl: “THE CATCH FOR ALL THIS!? Well apparently, our main course and dessert, the lasagna and pie came from “Marie Callender’s” FROZEN BOXED MEALS. All George did was a la Semi-homemade style of stacking the lasagna and sprinkling fresh herb, then putting the pie in individual cups and topping it with vanilla ice cream. At least that explains why it wasn’t the amazing dinner I was expecting. I had a good laugh about it. Took a while to sink in, the whole night seemed like such a long and elaborate set up. I was a bit annoyed and truly disappointed/shocked, that George would be part of this at all. Specially the misleading way he talked about “his” favorite way to make lasagna, the ingredients, sharing with family and friends bla bla bla. Oh, and were were all being filmed! (J and I walked out without signing any waver. So I better not see us in any promo video). George said goodbye to us and hoped we weren’t “upset” about this whole thing.” – Read the rest of the post here.

Moritz told the NYT, “It was never our intention to put any bloggers or their guests in an uncomfortable position and for that we are sorry”.

She also said they offered to refund the bloggers for any expenses such as cab fare and babysitting fees. You can read the rest of this very interesting story here.

Do you think ConAgra and the PR agency crossed a line they shouldn’t have or are the bloggers over-reacting? We would love to hear your thoughts on this story.

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The Crock Pot Girls Get Over 1,000,000 Facebook Fans in Just Two Weeks


As I was browsing through my Facebook newsfeed this morning, something that Social Media Speaker and Trainer Mari Smith posted caught my eye. It was about the Crock Pot Girls Facebook page which has received over 1,000,000 likes in just 2 weeks!

Mari posted, “How do you get over 1,000,000 fans in two weeks?! That’s what a lot of folks are wondering. A new phenomenon Crock Pot Girls, sprung up from nowhere in mid-August and now has 1.1M likes. There is much speculation on the ‘net as to how these fans came about. Is it a bot? Is an affiliate marketer behind the page? Is it a corporate campaign, created by Crock-Pot®? Who knows…”

She also listed some blogs and sites that are asking the same question and covering the story:

It seems everyone is asking “What’s going on?”. Some are saying it’s fake and could possibly be a Facebook BOT, while others are saying they believe it’s completely legitimate.

Here’s one view of the whole situation:

Still curious but at work, I asked a friend to look up the Whois for crockpotgirls.com (not linking because their server can’t handle the traffic anyway). The site was registered on August 26, 2011 to Chase Shelby. Based on a quick search and cross reference, I learned he also owns the domains ChaseMarketingProfits.com and StephenvilleIternetMarketing.com and on related message boards he identifies himself as an Internet/affiliate marketer.

Possibly they hired him to create their website and as payment he gets whatever money he can make via affiliate ads?

I definitely plan on following this story to see if anyone from Crock Pot Girls responds. And yes, I am one of the million+ that “Liked” their page, but not until just a few minutes ago when I read about the story. They do have a website – www.crockpotgirls.com – which is very basic.

What do you think? Does this whole situation seem a little fishy to you or is the world just crazy for crockpot recipes?

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Food Blogger Finds Support from Her Online Friends


The online world is weird if you really stop to think about it. You can become very close to someone without ever having met them in person. There are certain blogging communities that are very close and one in particular is rallying around one of their own.

I’m talking about the food bloggers, the foodies, the gals and guys who tempt us with tasty recipes and jaw dropping photos of their dishes.

Jennie, from In Jennie’s Kitchen, suddenly lost her husband at the beginning of August. He was on a bike ride and died of a heart attack. Just like that and he was gone. She recently wrote a post entitled “For Mikey” and it was about his favorite peanut butter pie.

She wrote:

As I spend Friday reflecting on the love and life that was gone in an instant, I’d like to invite all of you to celebrate his life too. Mikey loved peanut butter cream pie. I haven’t made it in a while, and I’ve had it on my to-do list for a while now.

I kept telling myself I would make it for him tomorrow. Time has suddenly stood still, though, and I’m waiting to wake up and learn to live a new kind of normal. For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

So what did her online friends and the blogging community do? They made peanut butter pies.

Ethan from TasteBetterwithFriends made Mikey’s peanut butter pie and gave it to a women’s shelter.

He wrote:

“I knew I was going to make this pie, but I felt like this was finally the time to give and share. Maybe, just maybe a group of people could bite into the decadent peanut butter and cream cheese frosting with a cookie, peanut, chocolate crust and forget their own pain for at least as long as it takes them to lick their plate clean.

I gave Mikey’s Pie to a women’s shelter.”

I absolutely love how the food blogging community is rallying around Jennie. There is currently a support fund for Jennie and her daughters that you can get involved in.

Do you have any stories of the blogging community supporting each other? We would love to hear them. And Jennie, I am making Mikey’s pie for someone I love and I’ll do as you said – hug them like there’s no tomorrow. Our thoughts are with you as you go through this time of healing.

Forkly iPhone App Helps You Find Food and Drink You’ll Love


A new iPhone app has joined the quickly-becoming-crowded space of food apps. It’s called Forkly and it helps you find food and drink you’ll love. Not only does it help you find new restaurants you might like, but once you’re at the restaurant, it will recommend dishes to try as well based on your own personal tastes.

Brady Becker and Martin May, founders of Brightkite, developed the new app. Forkly has actually been talked about for a year, but it’s finally here and made it’s quiet entrance into the world of apps last night.

Some are comparing this new app to another one called Foodspotting, but they say it focuses more on ratings than the actual pictures of the food, like Foodspotting does. After users note how they feel about a certain dish – like, love, okay or not for me  – Forkly creates a taste graph for each individual user, which helps in letting you know about other dishes you might enjoy.

There are many more features to this app for restaurants and bars, brands and even the media and bloggers. For bloggers in particular, you can share your tastes on Facebook and Twitter while you’re out and about. You can also embed tastes into your blog, as well as earn points when people like the tastes you post.

I can see this easily integrating into a personal, food, or travel blog really well.

Check out more of the features here and download the app at the Apple store here.

So tell us foodie and travel bloggers – how can you see yourself using this app on your blog?

ZipList Partners with Popular Southern Food Bloggers


ZipList, the leader in online and mobile grocery list and recipe box management, has partnered with four popular Southern Food Bloggers. The four bloggers have integrated fully-branded recipe boxes and grocery shopping lists into their websites.

Here’s a brief description of ZipList:

ZipList is a free online service that makes managing your grocery shopping list easier than ever. With ZipList, you can create a shopping list which is always available to you online. You can add to or delete items from your list via the web, mobile phones, text messages, email or instant messaging. You can share your list with family members or friends so they can add or delete items as well — and they can even help you shop.

ZipList also has a universal recipe box, so you can save all your food recipes in a single place — whether they are your own or compiled from other online recipe web sites.

The four Southern Food Bloggers who have teamed up with ZipList are:

As you browse each site (which I did and it made this Southern girl very, very hungry) you’ll see the different ways they have integrated it on their blogs. Deep South has theirs a little more prominent with a link to ZipList on the sidebar. On the others, you can find it under their tabs labeled “Recipes” or “Recipe Box”.

Geoff Allen, Founder and CEO, ZipList, Inc. says “By adding fully-branded, seamless experiences to these Southern food blogs we’re helping their readers engage and act on the tasty comfort foods and Cajun creations they publish online. Our partners do a fantastic job of inspiring their readers and ZipList’s partner tools make it as easy as possible to take action on their wonderful content.”

Engaging your readers is the difference between a successful blog and a not-so-successful one. Congratulations to the four food bloggers who were chosen!

Food, Courage and Creating Content: Let the Journey Begin


… by Beth Cochran

When I attended BlogWorld just a couple short months ago, I was working on a new venture that, at the time, was straddling the line between start-up and a viable business. I was glad to be passed the very beginning – the website creation, building an audience, struggling to get all the pieces of the puzzle together, etc. I was finally able to direct my efforts towards refining the content and finding sponsors. But things happen, partners lose interest, and I recently found myself back at the start – unwilling to let my passion die.

This journey, however, has made me realize how much passion goes into food blogging (and any content creation for that matter). So as I take an all-too-familiar trip down start-up road, I figured I would focus this blog post on the process and provide some tips and tools – and hopefully some inspiration – to keep you going.

Just Do It

As Julia Child said “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Passion is indeed the first step, and it will get you far, but knowledge and the right resources will carry you the rest of the way.

  • Navigate the space – do your research. Is there anyone else out there doing what you want to do? How can you create something different? Find your niche.
  • Establish your presence – get out there and start creating content. There are tons of free tools to get you started:
    • Blogging sites – WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous
    • Social sharing – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TubeMogul, YouTube, Flickr
  • Curating content – create an editorial calendar with dates and topics, but don’t let this become too daunting of a task that keeps you from creating!
  • Build your foundation – if you don’t have the budget to hire and SEO pro or a designer, there are several free resources to get you by until you can:
    • SEOmoz.org
    • SmashingMagazine.com

“Like Nike says, ‘Just Do It!’ There are so many things that a new blogger will need to learn to make his/her blog readable, more to make it good and even more to make it great,” said Tony Morales, owner of Desert Smoke BBQ and blog. “Nothing can happen until you take that first step so get the basics up, and start writing. Don’t worry too much about it being perfect from the start. Your blog will evolve as you learn.”

Build a Network of Foodies

Surround yourself with people of like mind, and before you know it you’ll start coming up with ideas you never thought possible. Attending conferences like BlogWorld and TECHmunch have proven invaluable. Not only do you learn tricks of the trade, but you build your network (and make several lasting friendships) and see what others are doing. It’s a great way to keep your thumb on the pulse of the foodie/content creation movement.

Don’t forget to explore the digital space too. Food is a universal language. Technology allows us to see, hear and in some cases interact live with food creators from all over. We are now able to be a part of “Chili Takedowns,” or learn how other foodies taught themselves to smoke fish or make gourmet chocolates (FoodCurated.com), swap recipes on BakeSpace.com, or see the crazy brisket tacos being served up by the Taceaux Loceaux artisan truck in New Orleans (VendrTV). Yes, it’s a lot of work, but take a cue from these fearless content creators and start living your passion…it will pay off.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

Beth Cochran (@BethCochran) is the founder of FoodTVLive.com, a live stream culinary show network, and Wired PR, a Phoenix-based public relations agency.

Raiding the Pantry for Fresh Food Content


… by Hilary Allard

Everyone talks about content. You know you need it – but when and how to create it? For many people, the prospect of adding “content creation” to their to-do lists is overwhelming.

Luckily for people in the food business, there are a wealth of simple ways to use what you already have on hand and easy ways to turn the things you do on a daily basis into meaningful content.

Consider the following:


It’s not enough to put a product on the shelf – you have to help consumers understand how to use it. Whether your product is a gourmet ingredient or a kitchen appliance, gather your best recipes – from employees, friends, neighbors or mom – and share them on your blog. Showing customers how to use your product will help them make it an important part of their daily lives.

Think about seasonality when posting your recipes. Do you have tried-and-true favorites that are perfect for Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day? What about best uses for all that extra zucchini in August or ideas for a Fourth of July barbeque? Map out a calendar of occasions and slot in the recipes you already have on hand. Before you know it, you’ll have a year of content in front of you.

Check out these holiday recipes and entertaining tips on Victoria Gourmet’s blog.

Instructions and Tips

No matter what your product, you will inevitably get a broad range of consumer questions. By sharing content that addresses your most commonly asked questions, you can raise customer satisfaction and put a human face to the brand.

Posting an instruction manual isn’t exactly compelling content. But what about augmenting your existing product instructions with a series of photos that show how that pie should look in the stages of being made, or a quick Flip video of how to lock the lid on your company’s food processor?

Don’t forget the tips that your customers send you. They can often provide insights into product uses or challenges that you may not have thought of. As a courtesy, ask first before sharing online.

Wilton Cake Decorating shows their expertise through a robust YouTube channel with instructions for cake decorating from the basic to the advanced.

Testing, one, two, three

The next time you’re in the test kitchen working on a new recipe, grab a few shots and upload them to your Flickr or Facebook page. People love seeing “behind the scenes” activity. Ask consumers what they think about the recipe idea. Is this something they’d like to try? What suggestions do they have for improvement?

Are there other food-related activities you are doing that you should share? Everyone complains about those who tweet about what they had for lunch. But what about a company potluck where everyone brings a dish made with your products? This could be a source of ideas and inspiration for your customers.

And where are you eating, anyway? If customers look to you as a food expert, they will undoubtedly be interested in your latest restaurant visit. Maybe not the sandwich you had for lunch, but maybe that dinner you had at a new Chicago hotspot on a business trip.

For inspiration, look to Martha Stewart who does a great job of blogging about relevant information related to her ventures, including cooking and dining out, complete with great photos.

Hilary Allard:
A Vice President at The Castle Group, a Boston-based public relations and event management agency, Hilary has extensive experience working with CPG, housewares and multi-unit restaurant companies. She works closely with her clients to develop successful media relations strategies and social media programs. An avid homecook, she writes a personal food blog. You can find her at http://slicedanddiced.wordpress.com, http://thecastlegroup.wordpress.com, and http://twitter.com/hallard

Shoot Your Food


Shooting your food can be a great way to draw people into your blog. The experience of eating is universal and so it is almost universally appealing. You can easily create content every day just by documenting your food. I wouldn’t completely recommend that, but it’s possible. Some blogs focus on the importance of beautifully shot dishes, or disastrous results with cake decorating.

When you’re shooting your food think of what would appeal to your audience. Do they want to know how the food was prepared? Do you want to instruct them on how to create the same meal? Or do you just want to show how the delicious your meal was? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you shoot your food.

Kickin' Shrimp... PAD #1056

Some of my favorite food blogs give me instruction and recipes. They are very detailed and provide photos, or videos to supplement the written instructions. I think this is a great enhancement to a blog especially if you’re teaching someone how to use a recipe or to prepare a meal. So it is important that your content is accessible and appealing to your readers.

My favorite food blog is the Average Betty blog. I really love the way that Sarah (AKA Average Betty) not only shows me how to create something through video but also includes photos of the finished dish. The videos are entertaining informative clear and concise. With the written recipe there are photos of the different steps to take to create a dish as well as photos of how the dish should look in the end.

I made one of Average Betty’s Recipes the Hoffapenos.

When you are deciding what type of photo to take of your food you need to consider lighting, composition, and and how it will make your reader’s mouths water. I traveled for almost 7 years straight all across the country and into Canada and across the pond to London. In that time I took photographs of many of my meals. I got a lot of ribbing from many of my friends. Photographing your food is often the punch line to people joking about how bloggers just talk about what they ate that day. But the joke’s on them because many blogs have popped up around food. I see many photography projects based on what people ate that day. And whenever I attend a blogging convention half of the people at the table whip out their cameras to take a photo of their meal before they eat.

Havana on my Mind

Eating food, talking about food, seeing videos of food it is something that I can definitely get behind. If you are thinking of a way to create some content on your blog go to a food site look at the recipe and then try to prepare that meal yourself. Photograph the steps you make to prepare the meal, video portions of the preparation, photograph the finished product, and then interview the people eating the food. I did this with one of Average Betty’s recipes, the Hoffapenos and we be came friends when I linked to her and chatted with her. One of the highlights of Blog World Expo was actually getting to meet my friend Sarah.

BenSpark and Average Betty at BlogWorld 2010

One of the highest search terms for my blog is for that of Fry Sauce. Fry Sauce is basically a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise with additional spices or other ingredients. One day I was looking for something to photograph for my Photo-A-Day project. I was at a restaurant and took a photograph of a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. I posted that to my site and asked my readers what they put on their burgers, hot dogs, french fries and so on. One reader was incredulous that I did not include Fry Sauce. I had never heard of what it was and so I did some research.

Steak Sauce, Hot Sauce, What Sauce...
The photo that started it all.

I began to experiment on my own to discover what the appeal was for Fry Sauce. Not only to discover the true deliciousness of Fry Sauce but I turned it into content for my blog. I held a contest for the Ultimate Fry Sauce. I asked for 10 people to submit recipes. I then prepared all 10 recipes. That was a lot of ketchup and mayonnaise. I do not want to see or smell fry sauce for a month. However, through this contest I generated blog posts, videos, photos and attracted a number of new readers. Resulting about from a simple day where I shot a photo of a couple bottles of sauce.

Lazy Susan was Busy Tonight...

And here is the video I made about the contest.

Can you see how food blogging can get you some great content?

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 2000+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at BenSpark.com. You can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Season Your Content With Your Voice


… by Mike Dobranski

If blogging were to have a Golden Rule, I think it would be that “Content Is King.”  When it comes down to it, we can all write, but the people with the interesting content said in the voice that genuinely touches the audience will ultimately be the most successful.  Blogging is all about good touches.

When our palette is narrowed down to our palates with Food Blogging, new and original material is often times tough to come up with after a while.  For those of us that blog about restaurants, how many different ways can we talk about too much salt on the New York Strip, or for those that blog about cooking, really…how many friggin’ variations of a cupcake are there?

Many times it’s all about the angle and the light.  What angle are you going to approach the over-salted New York Strip?  Is it part of a review of the restaurant?  Is it enough to stand alone as a spotlight on the dish?  Do you want to put it as part of a list of the saltiest things you ate in 2010? Do you want to talk about the abused piece of meat on a “Versus List” such as; Steak vs. Salt Lick, Steak vs. Rim of a Margarita Glass, Steak vs. Dead Sea, etc.?  How many different approaches can you take with a common problem you’ll see over and over and over again?

However, all these different approaches don’t mean squat if they aren’t in your own voice.  The worst thing a blogger can do is try to fit them self in someone else’s mold.  Write the way you talk, not the way someone else talks.  If you think the glaze for those homemade donuts you’re blogging about looks like smegma, then say so.  If the mere thought of smegma makes you want to take a boiling hot shower and say ten Hail Mary’s, then don’t do that.  Write in your own voice.  Your followers will find you.  So will the haters…but tell the haters to kiss your ass (in your own words, of course!). Remember, for every single vocal critic out there, there’s usually a couple hundred reading silently, nodding their head in agreement with you.

Engage your audience with quality, original content.  Make them see things in a way they never saw them before…that’s when the magic happens.   Above all else, say what you need to say in your own voice.  If people wanted to read about that cupcake the way someone, perhaps, more “established” would have said it, then they can always log on to their site.  Say it like you mean it.

Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. He is the founder and writer for http://TastingLasVegas.com, a blog and podcast dedicated to news and reviews of the Las Vegas restaurant scene. You can join Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

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