Wednesday, July 17, 2013



“It should be emphasized that the problem of contamination with antibiotics in our foods and particularly in milk is a small one compared to our other current food safety problems which have arisen in large part as a result of technologic progress in food production, processing, and distribution in the processing of food, preservatives, antioxidants, colors, bleaches, flavors, coatings, drying agents, moistening agents, thickening agents, sequestering agents, “aging” agents, stabilizers, emulsifiers, neutralizers, acidifiers, and sweeteners are used.” 

-- from a 1957 report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration minimizing the risk from antibiotic contaminants in our food supply as reported in “The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson: On a Farther Shore” by William Souder

Today in India, dozens of children died from an insecticide in their free school lunches.   According to CNN.COM, “The poison was organophosphorus, a chemical that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is commonly used in agriculture.  It is a nerve agent related to sarin gas, which is commonly used in chemical warfare, the U.S. Health Department says.” Click here to read the CNN story.

Children in the United States are also consuming foods containing chemicals commonly used in food production that can be harmful, if not deadly.  As parents, it is time to talk to the Food and Nutrition Manager for your child’s school district, asking questions about what chemical are in the foods your kids are eating in their school breakfasts and lunches, how the foods are grown, and what additives are in the foods served to your kids. 

What can parents do?  Call your school district's Food and Nutrition Program Manager.  Here are some questions to ask him or her:

  • How many chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial food dyes, and chemical "stabilizers" are in the foods served to our children?
  • How many teaspoons of added sugar are in the flavored milks served in public schools?
  • What percentage of the vegetables and fruits served to children in the free and reduced meal program are grown in the state and what percentage are trucked/flown in from other states/countries?
  • What percentage of the vegetables and fruits served to children in our public schools are grown chemical-free?
  • What percentage of the vegetables and fruits served are GMO (genetically modified organisms)?  

In the county where I live (Indian River County, Florida), two in every three kids (66%) qualifies for the free and reduced meal program.  What that means is that 2/3 of all children eat most of their meals at their school.  My dear friend, Bonnie Swanson, who retired last December as principal of Vero Beach Elementary School, taught me about the “situational poverty” of her students’ parents, who, through no fault of their own, were unemployed or underemployed due to the economic downturn of the past five years. What I learned from Mrs. Swanson is a lesson I will never forget because Vero Beach Elementary School is in the heart of Indian River County.  Many of America’s wealthiest Fortune 50 CEOs retire here because we live in “a slice of paradise.” Yet, children are struggling to thrive and learn each day because they are starving. 

The way I was raised, paradise is not supposed to include children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, let alone whether it is filled with delicious, locally grown vegetables.

Mothers and fathers are the heart of the food revolution to protect the health and lives of America’s – and the world’s – children.

As a mother, I ask a lot of questions.  We trust that schools will provide healthy foods, not poisons such as sugars and foods laced with chemicals.  We want our children to thrive.  In light of the tragedy in India, it is time to change the questions we ask of our nation’s schools and the foods provided by the USDA. 

My heart aches for all the mothers and fathers in India making funeral arrangements for their children who died today because they ate their free school lunch. 

Chemicals are killing our children.  Ask questions.  Read food labels.  Find out about the foods your kids are eating at school or in snacks at their after-school programs.  Their lives may depend on it.  

Please say a prayer for the parents in India who lost their children today.  Act to ensure that the same thing does not happen here to our children.  Know your farmers.  Know where your food comes from.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.