As if Lauren Peller doesn’t have enough on her plate this fall — college applications are due, and she’s editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills — she’s taken on the role of editorial director of the newly launched high school chapter of the nationwide Spoon University foodie website.
Spoon University was founded in 2014 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the startup created by two then-college students is now based in Manhattan and has spread to 160 college campuses, including a chapter beginning this semester at Hofstra University in Hempstead. It’s geared toward helping young people learn how to eat well — whether cooking for themselves in off-campus housing or eating at restaurants and cafeterias on their campuses. It offers recipes, restaurant reviews, fun food-related quizzes and more.
Peller, 17, of Melville, emailed the chief executive of Spoon U last winter, asking this: “Are there any opportunities for highly motivated high school students to work with Spoon University?” Fast forward nine months — during which Peller contributed stories for the college chapters, then worked with editors to come up with a high school contributors application process, then started editing stories submitted by high school correspondents. Spoon University’s nationwide high school chapter launched Aug. 15 with its first 19 stories athighschol.spoonuniversity.com/chapter/highschool..
“I just wrote an article, ‘25 Places to Eat When You’re Visiting Colleges in D.C.,’ ” says Peller, who worked with another correspondent to come up with the choices. The high schoolers are focusing efforts on advice for eating during college tours. Other articles include “5 Homepacked Lunches Under 500 Calories” by a high school correspondent from New Jersey and “10 Indian Sweets That Will Have a Special Place in Your Heart” by a high school correspondent from Chicago.
Unlike the college chapters, which are tailored to each campus, the high school version serves all high schools nationwide. The goal is for the high school chapter to release at least 15 articles a month, says Britney Chu, who was Spoon University’s community growth manager through the launch of the high school program.
Peller learned about Spoon University because her older brother, Evan, is a senior at Northwestern, where the founding Spoon U chapter also has a print magazine version. “He brought the magazine home for me. He knew that I would like it,” Peller says. “When I saw it, I knew it was something I would like to get involved in, in college.”
Then she thought, Why wait?
She first wrote articles such as “Find Out Which Downton Abbey Character Matches Your Favorite Tea.” Then the work with Chu on the high school edition began.
Peller has relied heavily on her fellow students at Half Hollow Hills High School East to launch the chapter — for instance, she drafted senior Hallie Schuster, 17, of Melville, as a writer, and senior Matthew Gillam as a graphic artist.
Schuster says she “jumped right on board. I want to be a dietitian, so I’m very interested in healthy lifestyles.” She’s written “What to Eat on Long Island This Summer If You’re Trying to Be Healthy,” featuring establishments such as Organic Krush in Woodbury, Plant Strong in Dix Hills and Joni’s in Montauk.
Gillam created the logo for the high school chapter, adding a pencil point to the bottom of the college Spoon University logo of a spoon. “I wanted something that signified high school,” Gillam says. “It was just a subtle difference, but I loved it.”
Peller also has recruited fellow high school journalists across the country from a high school journalism website she belongs to. “A lot of us are budding journalists and want to write,” Peller says.
While contributors don’t get paid, they do get valuable experience, they say.
Schuster says it’s very rewarding to be able to see her page views, which indicate the number of people who are looking at her work. “It’s just cool that people are actually interested in what you’re writing,” she says.
High schoolers interested in contributing should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Hofstra University senior Christian Rudolph of Rockville Centre approached Spoon University over the summer about launching a chapter at Hofstra, which would be the first college campus on Long Island to begin a Spoon U chapter.
Rudolph and his co-founder, Sandy Le, a senior from Elmhurst, Queens, plan to start picking a team and enrolling contributors later this month and hope to go live this semester.
“We’re so close to Rockville Centre and Garden City, which have so many good restaurants and places to eat. If we write about those things and inform the Hofstra students, it will create a great environment around food,” Rudolph says. He also envisions posting simple recipes for on-the-go type food that will make college students’ lives easier, he says.