Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Instagram And Emojis Tapped For Food Science

A selection of emojis is displayed on a cell phone


Social media has changed the way we talk about food and opened vast frontiers for food researchers to study.

Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have started using Instagram to compare food pics and hashtags posted in so-called food deserts.

The group crunched data from 3 million geotagged Instagrams with a slew of key food words like #cupcake, #pizza and #beetroot, as well as telltale exclamations like #epic, #yum and #foodgasm.

The study cross-referenced those posts with USDA nutrition information and found that foods shared from food deserts were higher in cholesterol, sugar and fat.

Using a model based on this data, the researchers were able to correctly predict 80 percent of the time whether or not an Instagram food pic was taken in a food desert.

Another study recently mined Instagram to look at the good choices of adolescents, and found that nearly 68 percent of the foods they shared were high in calories but low in nutrients.

Marketing researchers are also studying Instagram and other social media - looking for ways to encourage consumers to share food pics of their products.

Navy Beans :(

Scientists at the Sensory and Consumer Research Center at Kansas State University Olathe are using emojis to gather data on what elementary school kids think of their school lunches.

The group used an "emoji ballot" to study students' reactions in Kansas and Ghana. Emojis helped them eliminate language barriers and allowed them to more accurately compare reactions across cultures.

They used emojis expressing a range of 28 different food reactions, including "confused face," "smile with tongue out," and "normal face."

Orange juice, chocolate graham cookies and white grapes won the smile-iest responses, while fresh spinach got the most disgusted frowns.

The studies aim to help nutritionists find healthy food that kids will eat while reducing food waste at schools.

Findings from research on school food waste have varied widely, but a 2013 study in Colorado found that elementary-school students wasted more than a third of grain, fruit and vegetable menu items.

A school lunch program in Virginia tried a similar technique to evaluate its lunch program – using only three emojis.

Read More:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media