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Demand the Right to Health: Let Students Opt Out of Unhealthy Meal Plans

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Hi, my name is Missy Martin, and I'm a rising junior at Belmont University.  I am fighting for the right to health and acting as a voice for all other students who are also required to pay for unhealthy, poor quality food over the course of their time in school. Students should not be required to pay for meal plans that do not support their health and well-being. They should be able to opt out of these meal plans and pay for food that will fuel their bodies in the best way possible.

Join me in demanding the #righttohealth. Students should be able to opt out of unhealthy meal plans. Although this is the goal right now, I want to create a paradigm shift in all school dining to FLOSN (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO) food. But through the transition process, students should be able to protect their health and opt out of the current, unhealthy meal plans. My hope is that our decision makers realize the impact their choices have on our minds, bodies, and future.  Change needs to happen. 

Belmont has denied my request to opt out of my meal plan for my health. I am trying to show Belmont leadership that this topic matters. If change can happen at one school, then change can happen at other schools, too!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

To learn more about campus dining and my specific story, then read below.  

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Take a second and imagine school dining.  What does it look like to you?  Pizza, fries, mac & cheese?  Maybe there are some healthy options like a salad bar?  But are the options organic and non-GMO?

Not only do many school dining options offer many unhealthy foods but even when there are healthy options, the food is filled with GMOs and laden with toxic chemicals, like the herbicide glyphosate, which the World Health Organization deemed a "probable human carcinogen" last year.

Twelve of the most heavily sprayed food items listed on EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides on Produce are deemed the "healthy" options in many college cafeterias – apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, spinach, peppers, and greens are a few examples.  

More specifically, a non-organic apple contains 42 pesticide residues (5 known or probable carcinogens, 19 suspected hormone disruptors, 10 neurotoxins, and 6 developmental or reproductive toxicants). Plus, there is a strong link between GMOs and agrochemicals.  According to the Non-GMO Project, the use of toxic herbicides, like Roundup with glyphosate being the active ingredient, have increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.

This summer I took the initiative to protect my health and requested to opt out of my meal plan.  

Even after explaining the health effects of non-organic and GMO food, Belmont’s leadership responded to my letter denying my request. 

By Belmont not allowing me to opt out of a meal plan, I am forced to eat food laden with toxic chemicals. If I refuse to put harmful food in my body but don’t have the money to go out and buy food due to the cost of my meal plan, then what do I do?

I will continue to demand my right to health. Belmont denying this right is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for any school to deny a student this right. 

Join me in demanding the #righttohealth. Students should be able to opt out of unhealthy meal plans.

Please, share any comments or ideas at studentsrighttohealth@gmail.com

The shortened version of my letter to Belmont:

 

Dear Dining Services,

The reason I am writing is to discuss my meal plan. I understand that students are required to have a meal plan, but I am hoping that we can work together and make an exception for my circumstance. 

First, I would like to share a little bit about my story. Then, I will discuss how healthy food is a passion in my life both at Belmont University and beyond.  

This summer I ate by FLOSN (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO) criteria. I noticed that when I eat food with integrity, I feel better in mind, body, and spirit.  I have more energy to do what I love and to lead with passion and purpose.  I have really struggled being on a meal plan the last two years. I am eating food that I don't believe in and that doesn't support human and environmental health.  It has contributed to a college experience that, for me, is unhealthy and unhappy.  How can I function when I know that each cell in my body is being fed with food laden with toxic chemicals?   

Did you know that the average non-organic apple contains 42 pesticide residues (5 known or probable carcinogens, 19 suspected hormone disruptors, 10 neurotoxins, and 6 developmental or reproductive toxicants on average)? The Environmental Working Group listed 12 of the most heavily sprayed food items and many of those listed are what our school refers to as the "healthy" options in Belmont's cafeteria - apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, spinach, peppers, and greens.  

It's not just about organic, but I also stand behind and fully live by a non-GMO lifestyle. Here's why:

This is an excerpt from my letter to 50 senators asking them to oppose the DARK Act:

"One of my main concerns with GMOs is the relationship between GMO crops and agrochemicals. Use of toxic herbicides, like Roundup, have increased 16 times since GMOs were introduced. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was listed as a 'probable human carcinogen' last year by the World Health Organization (WHO), reinforcing the numerous research findings that have proven the detrimental effects of this toxic ingredient.”

I want to avoid the foods that contain GMOs and agrochemicals. Protecting the health of my body, my future, and our planet is important to me.  

How is FLOSN food a part of my future aspirations?

By becoming an environmental lawyer, I hope to reflect change by protecting both human and environmental health from destructive pesticide exposure and GMOs by reforming legislation.  I have attended the Tennessee Local Food Summit and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conferences, and by listening to what the farmers in the region have to say, I believe the most pressing issue farmers face is feeling voiceless against big agribusinesses.  I want to give them a voice.  I want to be a change maker by fighting for funding and sustainable tools and practices for the farmers and their communities.  Through informing, inspiring, and mobilizing people at the local and national levels to start supporting, growing, and buying FLOSN food, I believe food and health systems can be transformed.

I also want to address all of the other students that are required to have a meal plan because they live on campus.  I believe all students should be fed FLOSN food.  If students are going to be required to have a meal plan for wanting to live on campus and be a part of the Belmont community, then they should be fed the BEST food possible!  

We need to take care of each other and cultivate a healthier world. Belmont says "Belief in something greater."  Well, let's live by that phrase! I have talked to dining services in the past, and I want to continue to collaborate with them on how to take steps on being as FLOSN as possible.  I have experience working with Turning Green's The Conscious Kitchen, a program that created the first FLOSN school district in the country at affordable price points.  

By working together, we can shift the paradigm of college dining.  Acting with a conscious mindset and thoughtful perspective is critical.  We need to assess our surroundings and investigate the impacts of what students are exposed to every day. We need to see ourselves as catalysts for the change our world needs at every level.  Will you stand up for students' right to the access of healthy, fresh, and affordable food and protecting their health? 

I need to opt out of a meal plan because I do not support the food that is currently being served both at the cafeteria and campus stores.  

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

With kindness, 

Missy Martin   

 

 



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