no conflict, just interest.

Last week, I came across a blog that has kicked my mother bear instinct into overprotective overdrive. It is written by a high school senior in Illinois named Tara. Like me, she’s a Virgo who loves Johnny Cash, “Harold and Maude”, and is active in changing school lunches. Honestly, the “Harold and Maude” part alone, was enough to make me want to spend some extra time reading her blog. She is also the student leader of her school’s Students Taking Charge grant program. If you’re not familiar, “Students Taking Charge” (STC) is a part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The whole idea behind STC is to empower students who are wanting to make a difference locally in their own school. Tara’s project? She just wants to know the ingredients of the foods being served in her school cafeteria. 

From the start, Tara has been getting the run-around. She has been told by her school district administrators and Aramark (the school’s supplier), that giving out this information would be a “conflict of interest”.

OK,  but to which conflict are we referring? The one involving Aramark’s profit margin at the expense of our children, her school district’s counter-productive participation in “Student’s Taking Charge”, a parent’s or student’s right to know what allergens are in a food, or the one making a mockery of Michelle Obama’s campaign? Stop me when I get to it….

My initial plan was to send Tara a few links to some websites about labeling policies and school commodities. I figured that would be enough to help her get what she needed. Before sending her the links, I went back through her blog to see if there was anything else I could think of that may possibly help her. That’s when I saw a new post she had written today:

I care deeply for my school and district, and do not wish to put the blame on them for which they are not responsible. They have actually in the past year not only given me the opportunity to make my school a healthier place by getting me involved in Students Taking Charge, but have also been partaking in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge

 -and from a couple of days ago….
Being a “kid” with no authority is no fun

And that, is when my heart broke. Two point five seconds later, I got mad. I can tolerate many things. However, grown adults deliberately encouraging  kids to do something and then not backing those same kids up when they need help, is not one of those things. 

Pushing kids into the spotlight by giving their “voice” a website, press kit, and a feeling of “empowerment”, only to knowingly set them up for failure… is the straw that broke this camel’s back.
              *…did I just call myself a camel? You know what I mean.*

A four hour Internet search, one Cadbury creme egg, and way too many jaw dropping discoveries later, I realized Tara’s inbox probably couldn’t hold the amount of information I needed to send her. Because I need every person who reads this to get behind her (since her district doesn’t seem to want to), I have decided to write a few blogs about the subject. Why? Because I can. Luckily, I have no personal “conflicts” with anything going on in Tara’s school. On the other hand, I do have a really large “interest”.  What Tara is trying to accomplish directly affects children that eat school lunch, my son included. If you’re reading this and you have a child, add yours to that list, too. Interested yet?

Tara currently has a petition going to make ingredient lists available at every school. You should sign it…

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you why that petition for ingredient transparency needs to become a law.

And just for good measure, it needs to be called the Tara Act.

One Comment to “no conflict, just interest.”

  1. From what I understand, this is what Aramark is using to serve our chidlren food on everyday: #6 PS: Polystyrene, used in Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carry-out containers and opaque plastic cutlery. Styrene can leach from polystyrene and is toxic to the brain and nervous system. It also has been found to affect red blood cells, liver, kid­neys and stomach in animal studies. It is hard to recycle.

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