Hometown Hero: Karsten Summerall

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The labels will tell you all you need to know about the food at Parker's, except who is responsible for the information.

"The FDA ruled a few years ago," said Karsten Summerall, "that everyone who sells freshly prepared food for customers has to have that nutritional information available."

And Summerall has spent the last year helping Parker's meet that federal mandate, researching ingredients, studying finished product, devising a computer program to bring the data to the public.

Summerall is 17 years old.

"Karsten graduated high school a year and a half early," said Greg Parker, president of the Parker's Company. "He's an absolute genius. And he is ascending, he's just gotten a promotion, he's about to start as one of our chief information officers."

Parker met Karsten five years ago when he donated to Godley Station School through his "Fueling the Community Program" and hired him to work the register at Parker's Market when he turned 14.

"He did that for about a year," says Parker. "And then he comes to me and says, 'Mr. Parker, I think I have learned everything I can learn here. I'd like to come work in your office.'"

As a special projects manager, he was put in charge of the labeling mandate despite having no background in nutrition.

"This is no small undertaking," said Karsten. "You have to certify with the FDA that your information is correct. There's a lot that goes into it."

"He ended up in a discussion with our National Association of Convenience Stores, 160,000 stores across the country," added Parker. "And he ended up being the most knowledgeable person on the subject. People on the other end of the teleconference had no idea a 17-year-old was leading this initiative."

And leading it quickly.

When the FDA pushed back the deadline by a year, Parker's was a year ahead of schedule with its labeling, which has already started showing up in stores on many items.

But, while he's helping the company, this WTOC Hometown Hero enjoys knowing that he is also helping the community.

"Our priority is the customer," said Karsten. "That is the person we are looking out for every day. And if we can provide that information and it makes their life easier, it makes their life better, it helps them live happy, healthy lives, that's what we want to do."

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