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Taking a Stand Against Unhealthy Schools

Most parents in the New York City public school system don’t realize how much power they have to initiate change at their schools, especially when it comes to food and sustainability issues. With childhood obesity an epidemic and sustainable living an imperative as we move into the 21st century, as parents, we can’t afford not to act.

At our children’s schools, the Children’s Workshop School and East Village Community School, we’ve already started to enact change. Our schools, which share a building in the East Village, were also the first in the city to adopt “Meatless Mondays,” after we shared information with our principals and fellow parents about how beef being served in our public schools is treated with ammonia. One of us, Elizabeth, was the only parent to testify before the Panel for Educational Policy when it voted to approve a new regulation limiting school bake sales to packaged, processed foods.

And now we’re planning a “bake-in” at City Hall for March 18 to protest the regulation, which bans home-baked goods from school fundraisers and mandates that parents sell Doritos, Frito Lays and Pop Tarts instead. The bake-in will demonstrate the difference between packaged, processed foods and home-baked foods cooked with love for our children and care for their health. We’re expecting hundreds of parents to join us.

We’ve done a lot, but we want to do more. We want to help New York City parents can get practical information about how to make their schools more green, from changing the food on their lunch menus to getting rid of Styrofoam trays to recycling, gardening, and more. While individual schools are making tremendous progress on many of these issues, there is no place for parents to share what they’ve learned and exchange ideas. We want to help doing that here on GothamSchools, and on our own site, NYCGreenSchools.org.

While we are excited by the prospect of parents taking the initiative to make their particular school more green, our real hope is that we can create a public forum where parents throughout the city can organize and act in unison to address the more intractable issues and problems facing our schools — issues that we can only hope to change as an united community. As our readership grows, we would like this blog to become a place of ideas, information, political action, and vision.

So please join us in our effort to make our city more green one school at a time. If enough parents do their part, we know the New York public school system, serving over 1 million students, can become an example to the rest of the country of the change that is possible. Let’s show our children that we really do care about the world they grow up in.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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