*** Please welcome a student concerned about the ingredients in the lunches she eats. I’d like to make it clear that she is not my student, we have never met, and she contacted me wanting to share her experience ***
Hello! My name is Tara and I’m a senior at my high school in Illinois. I have been through a lot this year in the realm of school lunch improvement.
In November of 2009 I decided to take on our school lunch. I sent my first email to our school food provider (Aramark) in search of ingredient lists for our food. I thought it would be a very easy process to get this information, as I figured they were legally obligated to provide it to me.
To my surprise, after weeks I received no response. So, I contacted my district’s associate superintendent to let him know that Aramark wasn’t responding to my email requests. About a day later I got a response email from Aramark:
“Oh hey Tara! Your message had gotten sent to my spam folder.” Blah blah blah.
Little did I know, I was in contact with a very new member of our district’s Aramark team. Weeks later I received an unofficial word document (obviously typed up by someone… full of grammatical errors) which contained ingredient lists for a few of our main dishes.
I was not surprised by what I found: our food was on the boarder of plastic.
On January 11th 2010, I gave a speech at our school board meeting.
At the time, it was an enormous success.
Our district’s associate superintendent was in contact with me the next day to arrange meetings with Aramark and I to “fix the food”.
At this point I had two main objectives:
1. Have the chemical fillers removed from our food
2. See that an official ingredient and regularly updated ingredient list was made accessible to the student body
And long story made short….
After several meetings with Aramark and district officials I realized neither of my wishes were going to be met.
I was not surprised by the fact that our school couldn’t “find the money” to get the fillers out of the food.
What DID surprise me, however, was the fact that the ingredients in our school food were being kept a secret from the students.
I was actually told by our district’s Aramark coordinator of food services that I should have never been given any ingredients in the first place, and that the woman who had them sent to me unknowingly risked her job by doing so.
In the past month my district’s associate superintendent has dropped out of my efforts.
(I have a feeling he is too busy worrying about the six million dollars the state owes my school district.)
So, I have taken ingredient transparency for my district into my own hands.
I have stated a petition for transparency,
http://www.petitiononline.com/d300food/ (please sign it!)
a facebook group,
and a blog of my own. http://healthytara.blogspot.com/
The only place I feel that this movement is lacking in is more student support. With that said, I’d like to offer my assistance to anyone who is interested in being a part of this all. There are a thousand different ways one can get involved. (You can start by signing my petition!!)
Also, thank you Mrs. Q for all of your efforts.
You’re putting your body and sanity on the line by doing what you’re doing.
NOTE: all guest bloggers have contacted me of their own free will, have given consent, do not know me personally, and are not receiving compensation.