When the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District voted to ban soft drinks last month, they had a silent partner: the Center for Food and Justice, a “project” of the “Urban and Environmental Policy Institute” at Occidental College. This academic activist hotbed is funded by the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Public Health Institute (which has its own anti-soda axe to grind).
The Public Health Institute, by the way, has also produced “research” for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, including “Wallet to Waistline,” the report responsible for the startling news that larger meals give you more calories.
But back to Occidental College. The Center for Food and Justice (CFJ) has produced a report outlining the methods that were employed to convince the Los Angeles school board to do away with Coke and Pepsi.
The report, “Challenging the Soda Companies,” aims to be a blueprint for future anti-corporate efforts in academia. It calls anti-soda efforts in schools “a significant organizing opportunity” for food activists in California. It’s clear that CFJ’s strategy continues to be effective: on the heels of the L.A. decision, the Fresno school district now has a majority of school board members who are committed to a soda-pop ban.
While the report itself is telling enough, we found it most interesting to look at its authors. Here, then, is some basic information about those who were really behind the L.A. decision:
Robert Gottlieb, who runs CFJ’s parent group, is (according to LA Weekly) a former organizer with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the militant 1960s protest group that spawned the violent Weather Underground movement.
Neelam Sharma, the program manager for CFJ’s “Healthy School Food Coalition,” is a player in the New Black Panther movement (recently re-named the “New Panther Vanguard”). He is one of three people who have written the most for the Panthers on the subject of slavery reparations.
Mark Vallianatos, who directs CFJ’s research program, was until 2000 an international trade lawyer with Friends of the Earth (FoE). He was among FoE’s spokespersons on trade issues during the months leading up to the now-famous 1999 WTO riots in Seattle.
Michelle Mascarenhas, a CFJ “associate,” was (again, according to LA Weekly) the acknowledged ringleader of anti-biotech protests held in 2000 against Trader Joe’s grocery stores in California.