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Parent activists versus the corporation: a fight for school food sovereignty

There needs to be one place in society where children feel that their needs come first—

not their future as consumers. In American society today, schools are the only option.

That’s why every aspect of school food matters so much and is worth every minute spent to promote and protect its integrity.

(Nestle 2011, p. 146)

Abstract

This paper empirically supports school food as a site of contested values, where corporate interests can come into direct conflict with those of communities. This is a story about the experience of a small group of activist parents going up against a major food service corporation contracted by their school district. The analysis considers their experiences as dedicated and knowledgeable parent activists who, after years of trying to work with employees of the global food service corporation, grow weary, aim to overthrow it, and finally, after a decade, succeed. In response to the parents’ struggles, I apply a food sovereignty lens to school food, introducing the concept of school food sovereignty. I propose that school food sovereignty requires community participation and consideration of the health and welfare of students, environmental sustainability, local economic benefits, cultural congruence, and attention to food-related justice.

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Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank Carrie Frazier and the other parents who have been part of Carrie’s organization, Kid Food Matters, for their hard work and dedication to improving school food for their community. The author also wishes to thank Toña Aguilar and Stacey Black for their inspiring example of a sovereign school kitchen at the Village School. These women have chosen to share their names so that others working to reform school food can reach out to them for more information and knowledge sharing.

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Correspondence to Sarah Riggs Stapleton.

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Stapleton, S.R. Parent activists versus the corporation: a fight for school food sovereignty. Agric Hum Values 36, 805–817 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-019-09955-w

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Keywords

  • School food
  • Food sovereignty
  • Parent activism
  • Neoliberalism
  • Sustainability