Friday, March 26, 2010

Refocusing my approach

I had a meeting with a couple school and district administrators today that really made me rethink my original approach to ingredient transparency. It is clear at this point in time that though they may agree with what I am trying to do, it is really out of my district's hands to provide us with transparency.

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 as far as Aramark goes-
They, or any other school food provider in that matter, on the small level, such as the representatives I have been speaking with, do not have the authority to hand me the ingredients as I am seeking them. Doing so would, as I have learned before, risk their jobs.

With that said;
I believe that national legislation needs to be passed to require ingredient transparency for all school food providers. Not just Aramark, not just district 300.

I am not sure what to do about the petition at this point. I may have to create a new one that does not target Aramark or district 300... I'll finish with my favorite quote.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

Henry David Thoreau

Oh, and for anyone interested in the email I sent to my district's Aramark reps-
Still no reply. Being a "kid" with no authority is no fun.


  1. Tara,
    Provide us with a link and start a writing campaign. Ask your readers and everyone else they know to write to Aramark. Pressure in numbers helps. Contact your local TV stations and let them know what yo've been trying to do. Your story would be a great news feature for local station and it's national afffiliates.

    "It is clear at this point in time that though they may agree with what I am trying to do, it is really out of my district's hands to provide us with transparency."

    Bull ticky. Aramark's ingredient transparency may be out of their hands, but renewing contracts with them is not. You district must accept it's responsibility and take steps to ensure contracted services meet transparency requirements.

  2. I absolutely agree with you. My district does have the ability to not resign with Aramark... actually, their contract is up for review in June. Unfortunately however, our state has put us in a serious deficit and leaves us with little to no choices. None of the other affordable food providers will offer ingredient transparency either. Though, it is an excellent point to make. I could speak to my district on the fact that they should sign with a company willing to offer ingredients if at all possible.

  3. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next! :)

  4. Don't be bullied. You have every right to continue to focus your efforts on both the school district level and the company level. If you want to take it above there too - great! But Aramark has the ability to change their policies and/or direct their employees to comply with the policy you posted about yesterday. Don't let them off the hook just because they're older and persuasive.

  5. Oh, forget emailing the district rep. Send a honest-to-goodness pen and paper letter (or one printed from your computer and mailed through the US mail). Send the same letter to the CEO: Joseph Neubauer. If you don't hear back in 2 weeks, send another letter. Keep doing it until they respond. Few companies ignore letters sent to the CEO through regular mail.

  6. Besides additives, I'm beginning to wonder if Aramark is withholding ingredient information because the foods being served do not meet all the USDA school food requirments.

    Try contacting the USDA for input and assistance.
    Here's a link to some resources.-

  7. Hi Tara...
    I saw you on Mrs. Q's blog. What foods are you trying to find the ingredients for, specifically? Let me know...I'll help you out. You're right...being a kid with no authority is no fun:( By the way, don't send/talk to any reps. Start with a certified registered letter to the legal department. Use words like "contain major allergens", "food labeling law", "you're not exempt", etc. I'll send you the technical stuff if you want! I'm on Mrs. Q's site as "just a mom in mesquite"...or you can find me here:

  8. this should help too,
    ps..start around page 10...:)

  9. Tara, I also sent emails to Aramark and the FDA about how to obtain product ingredients. I did receive a prompt reply from the person who sorts through emails at Aramark asking for clarification so she could route it to the right person! That address, as listed on the Aramark website, is If/when I receive a reply, I'll let you (and Mrs. Q) know.

    Your school district, when it is time to look at renewing/awarding contracts to provide food services, could require that any company bidding on the district's business must provide ingredient lists for products. These are multi-year $$$ contracts. Aramark is not the only fish in the pond, but your school may not want to make waves like that, as all these companies could band together in silence. But if your district is determined, they should be able to find one. Marriott, Sodexho, Chartwells are the big ones, but Ceres is a small one in Illinois and Taher is another small company in the midwest. Money talks!

    Even when your high school career comes to an end, I think this issue is important enough to keep working on. You may find yourself running into the same issues in college...

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  11. Yes, Tara, the CEO name I gave is the CEO of Aramark. I don't have direct experience with them other than when they ran our corporate lunchroom for a few months. I do know we have pretty good ingredient and nutritional information from Sodexho, as they have given us access to a website where we can look up many of our meals as well as individual ingredients. Not sure how that works on a school district level, but it's certainly a positive sign.

    Keep up the fight, in some way, shape, or form!

  12. Hey Tara,

    Dont be discouraged! You may be young but you DO have authority because you have a voice that you are choosing to use. You should be proud and continue to make noise!!!

    Great quote - Mr. Thoreau is always a good source of inspiration :)