Bettina Elias Siegel is a mother of two, former lawyer, school food reform activist, freelance writer, and publisher of The Lunch Tray blog. On March 6th she started a petition asking USDA to ban the use of lean, finely textured beef (commonly known as “pink slime”) in the beef destined for school food. Within nine days, the petition topped 200,000 signatures (reaching a quarter of a million signatures soon after) and effectively forced USDA to change its policy by allowing schools to choose ground beef without the ammonia-treated filler. Here, in her words from April 1, 2012, is how Bettina became a mom on a mission:
On March 5th of this year I read an article in the online publication The Daily that described how a shipment of ground beef, collectively containing seven million pounds of “lean, finely textured beef,” was headed for school districts around the country. LFTB, also sometimes referred to as “pink slime,” consists of fat-reduced slaughterhouse scraps treated with ammonium hydroxide to remove pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. It is used as a filler – unlabeled – in reportedly 70% of the ground beef sold in the United States.
What bothered me most about this news story was the fact that I had also just learned that fast food companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell agreed to stop using LFTB in their food. But school kids, particularly those who are economically dependent on the school lunch program, can’t vote with their dollars like fast food customers. I felt angry about this situation, so when I wrote about it for Lunch Tray, I attached a change.org petition asking Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to cease offering schools ground beef containing LFTB.
Within a matter days the petition went viral, ultimately garnering over a quarter of a million signatures before it was closed. Celebrity chef and healthy food advocate Jamie Oliver lent his support to the petition and various Congressional representatives also expressed solidarity with our cause. Just nine days in, when we’d reached over 200,000 names, USDA announced that it was reversing its policy and offering schools – for the first time ever – a choice between beef with LFTB and beef without.
I am so very honored to be nominated as a Mom on a Mission, but if 250,000 petition signers and countless others hadn’t also stood up to support me, my concerns would never have been heard by USDA. What we can learn from my experience is that we all have a voice, and if we band together, we simply cannot be ignored by powerful companies and even our government. Together, we can all be Moms on a Mission!