The Power of One!

By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Every week during our Middle School Student Council meetings we have a segment devoted to student suggestions. Most weeks these are items that are either somewhat routine (The water fountain needs fixing!) or impractical (Can we have a swimming pool?), but often completely appropriate. It was the students’ idea to have a formal dance for 7th and 8th graders about 10 years ago, and that has become a treasured tradition.

And then sometimes, out of the blue, comes something really noteworthy. Such a suggestion happened last fall and reached fruition as we entered the new year. Chef Matt Thomas from SAGE Dining Services comes to our Student Council meetings two or three times a year to hear from students about their likes, dislikes, and suggestions as to our lunches and snacks. Prior to this fall’s meeting, I received a lengthy email from 7th grader Meredith Snyder, who wanted to use his appearance to call attention to an issue that she felt was important for our community. This issue was the inclusion of the preservative TBHQ in some of our snacks. If you’re like me, you are probably asking yourself, “What is TBHQ?” I didn’t have to wonder long, as Meredith also included multiple weblinks on the subject to further educate us. Here is an excerpt from her email and plea:

It was announced at Morning Meeting on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017, that the Middle School Student Council would be having a meeting with Chef Matt about food. We, the Middle School student body, were told we could make suggestions to be brought up during that meeting. I have been wanting to bring this up for a while and I now have the opportunity. Cheez-It® Original crackers are a huge concern for me. I think our school should stop serving them at first recess on Fridays to the Middle Schoolers, and stop serving them as an after-school snack in Homework Hall and other activities. Cheez-It® Original crackers have health concerns and risks that are not very well-known and that’s what I’m writing about.

Adults and children love Cheez-It® Original crackers, but they have no idea what they are made with. They contain an ingredient by the name of TBHQ. A lot of people have no idea what that is or what it means. It stands for Tertiary butylhydroquinone. It’s a long name with many potential dangers and concerns. It is used as a preservative in many foods so the food stays “fresh” but it is a terrible thing, and can cause issues to humans.

TBHQ was tested in rats and a study was conducted by CSPI (Centers for Science in the Public Interest) and found that “… this additive increased the incidence of tumors in rats.” (The previous statement in quotes was from

There are many alternatives that can brought in instead of Cheez-It® Original crackers. Organic applesauce, fresh fruit, apple slices that come in little packs, and many more (double-checking that TBHQ is not thrown in those foods randomly would be necessary, and if it is, looking for another brand or distributor could be a potential option).

I really hope that this will be taken into account, and looked at in depth, as it is a problem. TBHQ is a very bad thing that is served throughout our school and there are ways to fix that with SAGE Dining Services, and our after-school activities.

Thank you,

Meredith G. Snyder

As you can see, Meredith was very thorough, respectful, and passionate in her request. And I’m happy to let everyone know the school did in fact meet with SAGE Dining Service about this and we all agreed to change our daily snack rotation and eliminate TBHQ in the process! On top of that, instead of a five-day snack rotation, we now have a 10-day rotation that includes items such as apples, bagels, fat-free vanilla yogurt, house-made granola (everyone’s favorite!), and even Goldfish® crackers. Why Goldfish®? Because they do not use TBHQ.

I applaud Meredith for having the courage and conviction to put the time into such a request (in addition to her schoolwork). I also applaud SAGE Dining Services for listening to the idea of one student, and I think we deserve a pat on the back, too. Student Council and the St. Francis School Mission in action – priceless!