This is the story of Bean: quite possibly the best viral food news story to ever cross our desks.
It's rare, but every once in a while, all of our editors come together over a story so pure and wholesome that we can’t help but smile. This is one of those stories.
Back in October, we first stumbled upon Eric "Bean" McKay, a 15-year-old Virginia native who is totally in love with peanut butter. So much so, it seems Bean eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on English muffins for every meal, every single day (more on that later.)
But he not just any peanut butter will do—Bean only likes the super smooth, creamy variety sold by Lidl, the German supermarket import that slowly expanded across the U.S. last year. So when Bean's mom, Tracy McKay, found a super sale on peanut butter at the supermarket—each jar for 78 cents—she decided to buy 72 jars to stock their home in February 2018.
Bean decided to label each jar with a Sharpie, and after about eight months, he finally got to jar 72 in October. The teen decided to appeal to Lidl directly over Twitter, asking if they would put the peanut butter back on sale so Tracy could purchase another 72 jars. "My mom said it's time for you to have another sale," he wrote.
While Lidl graciously agreed to send him another 72 jars after he quickly garnered 72 retweets, they seriously upped the ante: they offered Bean a lifetime supply of Lidl peanut butter if he could get 72,000 retweets on his original tweet.
And so Bean began sharing his love of peanut butter with others online—and Tracy finally explained exactly why the creamy spread means so much to her son.
"Like many kids with autism, he's sensitive to textures and self-regulates his food," Tracy later wrote on Twitter, after many people commented on Bean's dietary preferences. The thread has since attracted many autistic people and family members who have shared their own stories about the challenges of everyday eating—like Jools Saunders, who also prefers to eat peanut butter (albeit chunky) quite frequently.
At first, Bean's story spread slowly, but caught the attention of a few Twitter users who have quite the following—including the likes of Monica Lewinsky. But it was revered British author Neil Gaiman who helped Bean quickly surpass the goal of 72,000 RTs, and catapulted Bean's story into Twitter feeds everywhere.
You may think that his story ends there, with Bean happily eating his way through a lifetime supply of creamy peanut butter, but Bean decided to share his beloved peanut butter with others instead. Upon seeing the first batch of peanut butter delivered to the Virginia area, Bean told Lidl that he would like to share it with federal workers currently furloughed due to the government shutdown.
Why would someone be so quick to share their precious loot? Tracy shares that Bean's father inspired him to share the peanut butter, as he's currently furloughed as well. Yesterday, the entire McKay family decided to head to a local DC-metropolitan Lidl store, and personally pass out free peanut butter to those affected by the government shutdown.
Those with government IDs received three jars of free peanut butter, which Lidl matched. And since the event was such a success, Lidl will welcome Bean back to the Dumfries, Virginia store on Saturday, where he'll be offering free peanut butter once more. Bean's generosity has also inspired Lidl to offer any shopper affected by the shutdown $10 off a purchase of $40 or more, at any of their stores across the country.
Bean's three siblings, alongside their mother, have all joined him in helping spread the love this week—Tracy tells the Washington Post that she "couldn't be prouder" of her children, and that Bean's father is "pleased as punch." She says it's been a good lesson for all of her children that the Internet can actually be used for good.
After the event yesterday, Tracy said the whole family piled into the car after their work was done—and as for Bean? He said, "Mom, that just felt so good."