When we joined the wellness committee at our schools, we were concerned parents with the simple agenda of wanting to improve the food in our school cafeteria. We never dreamed we’d become ardent food activists meeting with PTA presidents, community boards, nonprofit organizations, and other impassioned food mamas about how to change the food system in our public schools. But thanks to Chancellor’s Regulation A-812 banning the sale of home-cooked foods in our schools while allowing highly-processed foods, like Doritos and Pop-Tarts, to be sold instead, that is what we’ve quickly become.
Since our bake-in rally protesting the regulation in March, NYC Green Schools has been on the ground advocating for a repeal of the ban on the sale of home-cooked food in our schools at meetings of PTA presidents councils, community boards, and community education councils. We are happy to report that a resolution urging the Department of Education to repeal the ban has been passed by several community boards in Manhattan and will be voted on by all Manhattan community boards at their Borough Board Meeting in July. Community Board 6 in Brooklyn has also passed a resolution asking the city to repeal the ban, and we are working on having the resolution introduced at Brooklyn’s borough meeting as well.
What is the role of community boards in the political process? That was our question when Community Board 2 in Manhattan invited us to speak about Regulation A-812. While the Department of Education can willfully ignore resolutions passed by community boards, our elected officials cannot. Resolutions passed by community boards signal to our city council members and borough board presidents that there’s broad support for a change, prompting our elected officials to then put pressure on our mayor and chancellor to honor, or at the very least acknowledge, the will of the people. In short, New York City community boards are a vital part of the democratic process ensuring that our city government is run by and for the people.
NYC Green Schools is continuing to build our coalition of parents, educators, community boards and community education councils, because we’ve learned that the only way we’re going to genuinely improve the quality of the food and, for that matter, education in our public schools is by coming together as parents, educators and citizens and demanding change. Before Regulation A-812, this idea of building, dare we say it, a people’s movement would have seemed too abstract and daunting to us. But over these last few months we’ve come to understand these words by the great historian and activist Howard Zinn: “And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
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.