Exactly three weeks to the day after starting my Change.org petition asking USDA to remove lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” aka, “pink slime”) from the ground beef used in school food, I’ve decided we’ve reached an appropriate juncture to close the petition. The final signature count: 258,632.
Here is my open letter to everyone who signed the petition, a link to which will also be circulated by Change.org:
Only three weeks after launching my Change.org petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop the use of so-called “pink slime” (or lean, finely textured beef – “LFTB”) in ground beef destined for school food, we’ve seen some truly extraordinary changes take place.
A mere nine days into the petition (when we’d already reached over 200,000 signatures), USDA announced that starting next school year it will offer school districts a choice of beef either with LFTB or without the filler. And since that announcement many school districts around the country, including New York City public schools, the nation’s largest district, have indicated they will take advantage of this option and phase out the use of LFTB by this coming fall. To have achieved this result in such a short time period is phenomenal and shows that our voices were heard loud and clear by USDA.
That said, there is still some work to be done. Not all school districts feel they can take advantage of USDA’s choice due to cost and logistical issues. USDA has indicated that it will have more information and guidance for districts after its vendor meeting in April.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine garnered the support of 41 House representatives in asking that USDA simply discontinue the use of any beef with LFTB in schools, the original goal of our petition. Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Kristen Gillibrand (NY) have also sent letters to USDA in support of that goal.
Because we now have Congressional representatives to champion this issue on our behalf, I’ve decided that it’s an appropriate time to close my petition. But you can continue to express your opposition to the use of LFTB in school food by visiting Stop Pink Slime.org, a website generously created and hosted by Jamie Oliver and the Food Revolution, with the endorsement of Moms Rising; Healthy Child, Healthy World; Center for Ecoliteracy; Cook For America; and Food Day.
I’d like to thank all of these organizations, as well as Congresswoman Pingree, Senator Menendez, Senator Gillibrand, Change.org, and most of all, YOU, for taking the time to sign and share my petition.
Together we have seen the power of our collective voices, and I have never felt so optimistic about the ability of parents and other concerned citizens to make meaningful, positive changes in the food served to our nation’s school children.
Thank you again.
Bettina Elias Siegel
That’s my letter to everyone who signed the Change.org petition, but now I’d like to add a message especially for Lunch Tray readers.
A while back, Ed Truitt, a fellow Houston Chronicle blogger, wrote this on his Facebook page:
Dear folks: want to see how to have a civil discussion online? How to “disagree without being disagreeable”? Then you need to check out The Lunch Tray, where Bettina Elias Siegel (and those who comment on her blog) shows us how it can be done.
I take no credit for Ed’s compliment and instead want to pass it directly on to you. While this controversy over LFTB has been raging in the media, I’ve been taxed in ways I could have never imagined and at times I’ve been nearly absent as a moderator of the comment threads. Yet I knew the blog was in good hands because TLT’ers were being their usual kind and thoughtful selves, making sure that the discussion remained civil even when it got heated. So thank you all very much for that.
And even though there have been a few nasty comments directed at me personally (I deleted the worst of these but let some pass through), I want to also commend the majority of pro-LFTB commenters, most of whom are new around here, for also using a civil tone no matter how vehemently they might have disagreed with my petition.
I’ll continue to post here about LFTB as warranted but, absent some unexpected development, I’ll also resume my regular writing about “kids and food, in school and out.”
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