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Teen Trend Report

Teen Survey Results and Student Writing Contest Submissions:  6,160+ teen and college student visitors, 390 survey responders, and 119 essay submissions from teenagers sharing stories about food.

Teens and Food - Trend Report

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale."
- Elsa Schiaparelli

"Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether it was our mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a way of transporting us back to the past."
-Homaro Cantu

Teens and FoodBackground:

We launched this teen survey and writing contest during the month of November.  November begins the fall harvest, when families gather to celebrate nature’s food bounty, to express thanks and gratitude, and to practice time honored food traditions.  We wanted to tap into this time of food traditions to see what the relationship is between teenagers and their food stories or memories.

Our Editors prompted the participating teens to get them thinking about the essay topic by asking them questions like:
  • Does your food story revolves around the holidays and how your family bakes together or cooks together?
  • When you think about food memories are you transported into your grandmother’s kitchen with fresh bread baking in the oven?
  • Do your food memories lean more towards your favorite take out spot or restaurant or maybe even an ice cream truck that always visited your neighborhood?
  • When you think of food do you conjure up images of the best meal you ever ate either in your own home or out to eat?
Over 6,000 teens reviewed the materials and hundreds participated in the survey and essay contest. Below you will find the results of's teen question, "What's Your Food Story?" would like to personally thank Applebee's and IHOP for helping to both sponsor this writing contest and brainstorm with our Editors on ideas for the prompt!

Applebee's - Education Sponsor  IHOP - Education Sponsor

Teen Trend Report Overview:
  • Trend Report about Teens and FoodVISITS:  Over 6,160 teens and college students visited the writing contest during the month's writing prompt (Nov. 2014) from across the US (all 50 states) and dozens of international countries.

  • TEENS and SURVEY DATA: 390+ students between junior high school and college fully completed the national survey about their relationship with food.
  • ESSAY THEMES:  Out of all of the topics discussed, several major themes were collectively revealed by teens in their essays about their food memories. 
  • Writing contest for high school students

    119+ teen bloggers submitted a qualifying essay to the writing prompt that asked them to, "Share Your Food Story" 
  • ESSAY WINNER:  Place winners, along with Runners Up and finalists were selected. 

PART I Statistics about Teens and Food

Before submitting their writing contest essay, teens were asked to complete a survey containing some questions about their relationship with food.  Here are the teen statistics from the survey from the 390 students who fully completed the poll...
  • 75% of teens report that their families have certain foods or recipes that are only used during the holidays.
  • 80% of teens enjoy cooking.
  • 59% of students watch cooking shows on TV or the internet.
  • 1 out of 5 teenagers eat together their families once a week (or less).  However, 1 out of 3 teens say they eat together with their family at least six meals a week.
  • 81% of teens claim to have a favorite restaurant.  When asked to pick their top two favorite types of restaurants, Casual Dining (e.g. Applebee's) [46%] and Ethnic Dining (e.g. Chinese) [48%] ranked the highest as favorite restaurant categories with students.  Other choices included Fine Dining [24%], Fast Food [20%], Local Breakfast Diner [12%], Hole in the Wall [8%], Food Truck or Street Vendor [2%]
  • 56% of students eat out at restaurants with their families two or less times per month.  Compare that to 31% of teens who eat out with their parents approx. once a week and 14% who eat at restaurants twice or more a week.
  • 79.5% of students have very specific food memories associated with their grandparent's home.
  • 96% of teenagers associate food with "happy memories."
  • In one sentence, what is your favorite meal?: The 390 personal answers from our teen survey respondents to this open ended question can be found in Stage of Life's full Teen Statistics report.  You can download the free statistics report below (click on the PDF document).
Statistics about Teens and FoodTo read the full survey results, click the PDF icon to view or save the free download.

SOURCE:  All statistics above were collected by as part of its monthly teen trend reports containing statistics and writing contest prompt responses from teens on real world issues.


After taking the survey, students submitted their writing contest essays to  From the qualifying teen essay submissions, several themes emerged:

Themes and Trends from the Teen Food Essays:
    • Teenagers and Food ThemesConnects Us: Food brings people together in a way no other activity can. After all, most first dates take place over dinner. Food comforts these teens—memories of making and eating food with family and friends were overwhelmingly the most popular topic in this contest. Food and family always intertwine.
    • Reminds Us of Home: Some teens (and their families) are from far off countries—or sometimes, far off states. One way for these teens to stay close to their roots is to cook food from their homeland. Although they may not be there, their new residence always feels like home with familiar food.
    • Makes Us Think Negatively: Some teens didn’t have a very positive relationship with food. A few teens bravely remembered struggles with eating disorders, or how little food they had while growing up.
    • Might Not Always Be Good For Us: Of course, some kinds of food—and food relationships—are not positive. These teens discussed GMOs in crops and how much Americans overeat—especially when the rest of the world might not have enough to eat.

    PART III:  Read the Teen Stories about Food

    Teen BloggersImmediately below, you'll find links to the winning essay, our runners-up, semi-finalists, and all qualifying essays from college students and teenagers answering the prompt, "Share a Story About a Food Memory."

    Please take a few moments to read an essay or two, especially our winner, runners-up, and finalists.

    If you have the time, make a comment on the essays you enjoyed the most.  We know the student writers will love hearing your positive input (they'll get an email notifying them if you comment on their writing contest entry).

    Writing contest winnerWriting Contest Winner & Finalists

    First Place:

    Food for Thought: Five Ways of Talking About Food by zoomthemaster student essay writers2nd Place: 

    Food for Thought: First Bite of Life by JuliaClaire

    3rd Place:

    Food for Thought: Too Much Thought by kmac2017

    Writing Contest Runners UpRunners Up (in no particular order)

    Food for Thought: Three Meals A Year by Wilkan531 (This teen loves a special, but rare, tradition)

    Food for Thought: Cracking the Exoskeleton by depatie.j (Lobsters bring this distant family together) 

    Food for Thought: A Lasting Memory by rubyduby (This teen remembers making cookies with her family)

    Food for Thought: A Gift for Baba by mackenzie.christine (She tried to make cupcakes for her Baba) 

    Food for Thought: An Overly Conscious Eater by blossom1997 (She was self-conscious about how she ate in front of people) 

    Food for Thought: A Journey from China and Back Again by KT (Chinese food is simple behind closed doors) 

    Food for Thought: Of Apples and Autumn by kaavya1997 (Her family waits impatiently for pie) 

    Food for Thought: Those Red Gumball Eyes by [email protected] (This teen remembers the elusive ice cream truck) writing contest submissions

    Read teen essays from national writing contest

    Read All Qualifying Teen & College Essays for the Writing Contest about Food

    The essays below were all written by Stage of Life teen writers for this monthly student writing contest...

    All Teen Essays about Food

    Food Essays About Family

    1. Food for Thought: Snow Days Remedy by brokeascollege (This teen fondly remembers hot chocolate and toast on snow days)
    2. Food for Thought: Restaurant Fight by DoctorArt (Her brother makes it hard to pick a restaurant to eat at)
    3. Food for Thought: Chili and Mashed Potatoes by LaughingJack4 (Food makes this teen grateful for his family)
    4. Food for Thought: The Turkey Bowl by AeroTot (This teen plays an intense football tournament with family every year)
    5. Food for Thought: Family and Sweet Potatoes by megancook (She has fond memories of Thanksgiving with her family)
    6. Food for Thought: Christmas Dinner Memories by BryannaMarie (When she thinks of food, she thinks of family)
    7. Food for Thought: Traditional BBQ by Uncorrect (Khorovatz is an invitation into a new culture)
    8. Food for Thought: Marinating Turkey with my Dad by ArmenNajaryan1 (This teen loves experimenting with recipes with his dad)
    9. Food for Thought: Dinner on Holidays by mariearutyunyan (She is the “Cake Boss” of her family)
    10. Food for Thought: Most Wonderful Time of the Year by aparsamyan (This teen loves Christmas and New Years for the food)
    11. Food for Thought by arpiiskandaryan (Every year, this teen goes to the same restaurant for the same delicious food on each birthday)
    12. Food for Thought: Three Meals A Year by Wilkan531 (This teen loves a special, but rare, tradition)
    13. Food for Thought: Holiday Joy by kaitlyn.toner (Every year during the holidays, she and her mom bake hundreds of cookies)
    14. Food for Thought: Gram’s Cinnamon Rolls by hspencer89 (This rolls were the perfect cure for sickness and sadness)
    15. Food for Thought: Texas to Poland by Zackski91 (Food always reunites this long distance family)
    16. Food for Thought: Celebrating the New Year with Food by jennifervo78 (Her family makes the best Vietnamese food)
    17. Food for Thought: Friday Comes Around Once Again by OriginalUsername1799 (This teen loves to eat with family once a week)
    18. Food for Thought: New Year’s Eve by zheyuezhao (This teen’s family loves to celebrate Chinese New Year)
    19. Food for Thought: Kabob, the Face of Armenian Foods by chrisg (Eating with family is about being with family)
    20. Food for Thought: Thanksgiving Day Dinner by rpgull911 (Thanksgiving is about family and togetherness)
    21. Food for Thought: Who’s the real turkey? by chasesmith64 (His family has a food fight every year)
    22. Food for Thought: Going to Grandpa’s house by TemporaryTree (He loves watching the Cowboys on Thanksgiving)
    23. Food for Thought: Food Unites All by GilberttS123 (This teen will always say yes to food)
    24. Food for Thought: Skordalia by OlympiaK (Holidays revolve around fish in this teen’s house)
    25. Food for Thought: Grandpa’s Meatballs by jacob_hoffer (Family is the priority)
    26. Food for Thought: Christmas Dinner by apal0925 (This teen cherishes family traditions)
    27. Food for Thought: What Brought My Family Together by SamFo (This teen loves “Big Red Ice Cream”)
    28. Food for Thought: Holiday Feast by mpader (She loves her aunt’s food)
    29. Food for Thought: A Day in a Portuguese Kitchen by canaluso (Food from their home country made them feel more comfortable)
    30. Food for Thought: Aroma of Memories by thomas_zohrabyan (Food has sentimental value)
    31. Food for Thought: Cracking the Exoskeleton by depatie.j (Lobsters bring this distant family together)
    32. Food for Thought: The lingering memory of home and flavored rice by Gigi (She remembers making traditional Indian food with her mother)
    33. Food for Thought: Pig Dog’s Thanksgiving by maddycatmail (This teen’s meal was destroyed by two small dogs)
    34. Food for Thought: Digestion of Tradition by lga (This teen hopes to carry on family traditions)
    35. Food for Thought: Down South Edition by NotJasmineHart (She was screaming for pancakes)
    36. Food for Thought: Breaking Race and Age Separation by bonnieli.collins (Different types of people can be brought together by food)
    37. Food for Thought: Fight led to the discovery of  new dish by shreenasinha (She and sister accidentally discovered a new kind of food)
    38. Food for Thought: Thanksgiving Dinner by Anthony Valencia (Every member of his family brings their favorite dish)
    39. Food for Thought: A Lasting Memory by rubyduby (This teen remembers making cookies with her family)
    40. Food for Thought: The Connecting Power of the Kitchen by polkadotmatrix (It is awesome how food can be passed down through time)
    41. Food for Thought: The Family Reunion Straight from Hell by malbert (This teen was not looking forward to a family reunion)
    42. Food for Thought: The Birthday Cake by sassypo (Her family makes a birthday cake for baby Jesus every year)
    43. Food for Thought: Food is what brings my family together by theawesomemetoris32 (Food relaxes this family)
    44. Food for Thought: Thanksgiving Memories by Faith Barge (“Food is the glue in family holidays”)
    45. Food for Thought: My Dad’s Cheesecake by SamanthaKFox (She will carry on her father’s tradition)
    46. Food for Thought: A Gift for Baba by mackenzie.christine (She tried to make cupcakes for her Baba)
    47. Food for Thought: Pakistani Style by kinza221 (Every Saturday, this teen’s family makes and enjoys Biryani)
    48. Food for Thought: Unforgettable Memories by Hasin (This teen’s family often throws a big family feast)
    49. Food for Thought: My Grandmother’s Cake by Brinette (She didn’t mean to upset her grandmother)
    50. Food for Thought: Chicken Ziti and Broccoli Every Friday by Brina (She sat with her grandfather and ate a classic meal)


    Food Essays about Feelings

    1. Food for Thought: Too Much Thought by kmac2017 (She has a hard relationship with food)
    2. Food for Thought: Gone Vegetarian by ali_ccia (This teen watched a video on the food industry and decided to try vegetarianism)
    3. Food for Thought: A Blessing or a Curse by KimberlyChavez (Food is a blessing from god)
    4. Food for Thought: One Sticky Mess by sara.wallce.098 (She does not enjoy cooking for one messy reason)
    5. Food for Thought: A Meditation by regina.yoast (This teen cooks to relax)
    6. Food for Thought: Welcome Home by hrairp (Food makes you feel welcome and comforted)
    7. Food for Thought: An Anniversary Dinner by aojohnson (This teen’s grandparents explained the meaning of food on the Maggiano’s menu)
    8. Food for Thought by abbeylassley (She wants to open a restaurant that makes people feel how she did in her Oma’s kitchen)
    9. Food for Thought: An Overly Conscious Eater by blossom1997 (She was self-conscious about how she ate in front of people)
    10. Food for Thought: Peanut Butter by blackwingbutterflies (She has a meticulous habit left over from her eating disorder)
    11. Food for Thought: A Journey from China and Back Again by KT (Chinese food is simple behind closed doors)
    12. Food for Thought: Five Ways of Talking About Food by zoomthemaster (This teen looks at food five different ways)
    13. Food for Thought: Food Without Company by skim0519 (Eating alone is not as nice as eating with others)
    14. Food for Thought: Sometimes by superwriter (She was nervous to disobey her stern’s mother’s rule)
    15. Food for Thought: Food, Fun, Family, and Friends by rsingmram (She feels badly for people who can’t enjoy food with their loved ones)
    16. Food for Thought: Society and Ice Cream Sundaes by hockey24 (This teen’s brother snuck off for a sweet treat)


     General Food Essays

    1. Food for Thought: Satisfaction by lovelygabby (Love will keep us full)
    2. Food for Thought: Thanksgiving Dinner by countrymusiclover180 (This teen’s mom makes most of the meals on Thanksgiving)
    3. Food for Thought: Holiday Memories and Traditions by AspiringWriter16 (The best part of the holiday is spending time with family)
    4. Food for Thought: Christmas by ron0822 (This teen loves his grandma’s gravy)
    5. Food for Thought: Pudding for pleasure; pudding for pain by lillyforster (Prose poetry about two kinds of pudding)
    6. Food for Thought by victorpompa1104 (This teen remembers his mom’s black forest cake)
    7. Food for Thought: Out of Control Cheese by andi620 (This teen will never forget a hilarious mishap with canned cheese)
    8. Food for Thought: First Bite of Life by JuliaClaire (She remembers feeling nervous about Costa Rica)
    9. Food for Thought: California Pizza Kitchen is Life by Haiko10 (This teen even remembers the first bite)
    10. Food for Thought: Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie by leemarie_97 (She wants to carry on the tradition of making this sweet pie)
    11. Food for Thought: Indian Restaurant by qwer58207 (This teen loves Indian food)
    12. Food for Thought: My First Visit by TheClashofClansGuy (He remembers his first visit to Olive Garden)
    13. Food for Thought by gstowe701 (She remembers her grandma’s homemade buttermilk brownies)
    14. Food for Thought: Airplane Food! by JSim0340 (This teen loves flying Air France)
    15. Food for Thought: Culinary Elegance or Father-Daughter Pastime by fitzpatrick_sc (This teen loves to cook for fun)
    16. Food for Thought: A Portal to the Past by NarvikM (He ordered an exotic meal in Tehran and loved it)
    17. Food for Thought: Home is Where the Food is by claramora (Moving to the other side of the country expanded this teen’s palate)
    18. Food for Thought: Devil and Angel by pfierbaugh (This teen cannot resist the temptation of a milkshake)
    19. Food for Thought by elvisd (This teen loves Armenian BBQ)
    20. Food for Thought: Pasta & Chicken by vinniescalise (This teen hopes to be a great cook)
    21. Food for Thought: Chinese for Breakfast? by hglassman80 (She would eat Dim Sum everyday if she could)
    22. Food for Thought: Giving Thanks by anonymous111111 (This teen loves the smell of turkey in the morning)
    23. Food for Thought: Blinchik in Winter by Gagik.Kesapyan (Blinchik is worth the effort to make)
    24. Food for Thought by pohyee (This teen remembers helping her grandpa in a food competition)
    25. Food for Thought: The meal that pampered my taste buds, satisfied my stomach, and touched my heart by  Saadbaloh_18 (This teen remembers an amazing meal in Tuscany)
    26. Food for Thought: Hot Pot, the Real Chinese Food by penguins0823 (She fondly remembers an authentic Chinese hot pot)
    27. Food for Thought: The Food Cataloguer by desertfx (This teen learned to take time tasting food)
    28. Food for Thought: No Turkey Please by HannahRichards0106 (Her family doesn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving)
    29. Food for Thought: An Untraditional Tradition by Nikolas12345 (Every year, his family goes to Popeyes)
    30. Food for Thought: Food Symbolizes Flavors of Life by ashvi jain (Food is not always very simple)
    31. Food for Thought: Thanksgiving on Pause by AbigailGR (Her family vowed never to let her uncle cook again)
    32. Food for Thought: Of Apples and Autumn by kaavya1997 (Her family waits impatiently for pie)
    33. Food for Thought: Blueberry Muffin Breakfast by kdavis1 (She loved making muffins with her Bebe)
    34. Food for Thought: My Sugar Cookies by writingdawn123 (Her family moved away from Wegmans, and searched for the perfect cookies)
    35. Food for Thought: What Goes In Has To Come Out by QuickSilva (This teen remembers a not so pleasant meal)
    36. Food for Thought by Fatush36 (This teen looks forward to Eid)
    37. Food for Thought: Holiday Memories by jenn.lynn (She looks forward to chess pie)
    38. Food for Thought: The New Yorker Connection by szymonb (New York is home to tons of delicious food)


     Food Essays Involving Friends

    1. Food for Thought: Those Red Gumball Eyes by [email protected] (This teen remembers the elusive ice cream truck)
    2. Food for Thought: My Thirteenth Birthday Cake by seekistguy (This teen remembers a rich cake with good friends)
    3. Food for Thought: Test Set Tuesday by trems76 (His team did a chocolate milk relay test)
    4. Food for Thought: Pancakes and Running by sammysal (He loves getting together with his cross country team to eat a big breakfast)
    5. Food for Thought: The Tradition by kacy.kerak (Every Friday, this teen goes to Chipotle with friends)
    6. Food for Thought: One Day of the Year by miccerim2014 (He loves to see friends he doesn’t see that often)
    7. Food for Thought: Happiness and Mexican Food by Shadowfox72 (Food brings people together)
    8. Food for Thought: The Memories We Cooked Up in the Kitchen by serli (This teen recalls tough assignments from her Advanced Foods class)
    9. Food for Thought: In the Mountains by Shringi (This teen had a wonderful meal in the Himalayas)


     Food Essays Dealing with Gluttony

    1. Food for Thought: Unintentional Gluttony Throughout Our Daily Lives by emilyreyneri (This teen had a heartbreaking encounter with a homeless person)
    2. Food for Thought: Africa’s Luxury by JoleneBerthold (Food is worth more than we’ll ever understand)
    3. Food for Thought by AlexCartheWriter01 (It’s important to consider the kinds of food you are eating before you eat it)
    4. Food for Thought: GMOs Across America by dylan.mccaughan (GMOs are unnatural; be way of what you eat)
    5. Food for Thought: Stop and Taste the Sauces by DeeViant (This teen doesn’t care for fast food restaurants)
    6. Food for Thought: The fat kids vs. the statistics by kiki_99 (Living normally is impossible)

    Video Resources About Food

    As part of the writing contest and teen survey, provided the following video resources about food...

    Videos about Food Memories- Clip #1:
      The Hundred-Foot Journey - "Food Is Memories"

    A short clip from the movie “The Hundred Food Journey” with the quotation “Food is memories”

    Videos about Food Memories- Clip #2: Food Memories

    Inspired meal memories from food All-Stars

    Author Sponsor

    For this month's writing contest, our Stage of Life partner writer is the bestselling author of “Blood, Bones & Butter” - Gabrielle Hamilton.  Ms. Hamilton kindly donated a copy of her cookbook, "Prune" to the winning student essay writer. is fortunate to have worked with dozens of internationally published, celebrated authors who support our digital literacy mission.  Check out our Author Partners.

    Author prize donation - writing contest

    Check out the interview with Gabrielle Hamilton about her books and food memories.

    Writing contests on StageofLife.comWriting Contests on Stage of Life hosts educational, national, monthly writing and blogging contests for teens and college students.  In its mission to provide students an authentic community to share their opinions and publish their ideas, will strive to continue its commitment to giving teens and college students a larger voice. 

    We welcome you to explore our writing contests, our mission and the literacy principals on which it Stage of Life was founded.

    Contact StageofLife.comIf you should have any questions about this writing contest summary, please contact us, or explore our other writing contest information pages...

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