Fairfield's Public School Cafeterias Lead the Way to Become GMO Free
Fairfield leads the way in transforming public school food services.
The cutting edge Fairfield Public School System leads the way by transforming their Food Services. After years of parental advocacy by the ‘Fuel for Learning Partnership’, the Board of Education, and Superintendent Dr. Title, agreed to outsource their food products in order to ensure healthy food options and high food quality.
Tara Cook-Littman, Esq. and Director of ‘GMO Free CT’ currently Chairs the PTA Council Committee called Fuel For Learning Partnership (FFLP), which is largely responsible for driving these healthy changes. Tara believes "good healthful affordable food should be available to everyone." She has worked closely with our state's government leaders to impliment a GMO labeling law.
Fun fact: Connecticut is the first state in the country to pass a GMO Labeling Law as of June 2013.
“I became a Certified Holistic Health Counselor after grappling with my own health issues and healing myself through changes in diet, and I wanted to be able to teach other people about what I had learned,” explained Tara, who decided to combine her advocacy skills (as a former prosecutor, advocating is what she did) with her passion for the policy side of health and wellness.
A GMO – genetically modified organism – is the result of taking genes from one species (such as: bacteria, virus, plant, animal, human) and inserting them into the DNA of another (food crop or animal) in an attempt to introduce a new trait or characteristic.
For example, an herbicide tolerant crop, which allows farmers to spray an otherwise lethal quantity of weed killer on the crop without killing it. These food crops have been altered to continually produce pesticides and withstand massive applications of weed killing chemicals.
Affected products: crops, vegetable oils, meats, eggs and dairy products obtained from animals being fed GMO derived feed.
Whitsons Culinary Group
Whitsons has been chosen as the new food service provider (by Dr. Title and the Board Of Edicatopm). Founded in 1979, Whitsons provides dining services to consumers and both public and private organizations throughout the United States. Whitsons is an industry leader with its customized services, innovative programs, commitment to quality, and focus on nutrition, local sourcing and community support. Beginning with the first day of school this fall, the following changes have been agreed to:
- Only NON-GMO oils will be used for cooking
- Organic milk will be offered
- Middle and High School snacks need to be approved by the FFLP
- Food products will be sourced locally/obtained by local farms including Sport Hill Farm in Easton (organic)
- Whitsons is open to incorporating the schools gardens into their school meals
- A Chef and Manager will be present in the district each day, in addition to a visiting chef who will circulate throughout the schools, allowing students to taste test foods
- There will be a salad bar
- Breakfast options are being discussed
- A cart located outside the cafeteria will be available for High School students who need to grab and go
“Whitsons happily agreed to this and more because it was in line with all their principles.” Inspired by her three elementary school aged children, Tara “wants there to be a better world for them and [wants] future generations to have a better world." She continued, "I’m concerned that the track we’re on right now, with the way we grow our food with chemicals, we’re not thinking about future generations, we’re being very careless. I want to secure a better future for my children and their children and their children. I feel very fortunate I can feed my children with the foods I want them to eat. Not everyone has access to that, so that is primary to me. Secondly, I see so many people suffering from different diseases that really are curable or preventable by making life style changes with the food you eat and exercise.”
Tara said, “Politicians immediately go to healthcare and treatment, I immediately go to ‘why aren’t we investing in prevention and education’ because for me that’s what it’s really all about.” In addition, she plans to run for State Representative.
“I’m very excited. It wasn’t really a part of my plan, but I’ve been talking this talk that we need to use our voices and take back our government and only elect people that hear the people – so it was time to walk the walk.”
And that’s not all! Currently in the works:
- A bill to ban pesticides where children play: schools, playgrounds, municipal parks, sports fields, playing fields.
- A bill to ban genetically engineered Round-Up Ready grass seed.
- Elimination of the ‘Trigger Clause’ currently attached to the GMO Labeling Law.
Motivated by not wanting to see people suffering anymore, Tara encourages everyone to take personal responsibility. “You have to do your part, that’s the only way we’ll conquer this, everyone has to take personal responsibility.”
Tara also believes education is key - upcoming events include:
- June 11th – presentation by Melissa Talarico – Hartford Hospital Wellness Center
- June 26th – Earthplace hosts a screening of the movie ‘GMO OMG’ followed by a panel with GMO Free CT member Ellen McCormick
- July 18th – Bridgewater Grange, GMO Education Seminar presented by Debra Cohen
July 19th – presentation by Tara Cook-Littman called ‘Taking Back Our Food, Our Government, and
Our Children’s Futures’ held at Winvian in Litchfield County during the NOFA event