Students at Carver Military Academy are taking their health seriously by making a commitment to stay away from Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the snack that became a target of a hard-hitting investigation by the Chicago Tribune earlier this month. Swayed by the argument that the Cheetos were both addictive and especially harmful, staff and faculty of Carver joined together by drawing up a pledge for students to sign that promises to trade in their orange bags for a more healthful quick fix.
At the Far South Side school, giving up the Cheetos is a big deal. One of the students signing the pledge – which could be for a day, a month or a whole year – is attempting to give up her three-bag-a-day habit. Junior Chanell Raines only signed a one-day pledge but hopes that going even one day without will strengthen her resolve to give them up for good. She’s hoping that the apple she got in return for signing the pledge will keep her going.
Carver English teacher Vanessa Johnson says the idea started last week when she shared the Tribune story with social science teacher Christina O’Leary “and we just started brainstorming how to introduce this to the entire school in science, social studies, English etc.”
So there they were, standing on front of the school entrance, brandishing shiny red apples in exchange for signatures. And it seems like students were biting. In total, 441 signatures were collected over the course of the day, and even those students who chose not to sign claimed that had learned something.
The pledges served to encourage many discussions on both nutrition and addiction among students, giving even those students who don’t have the taste for the spicy snack an opportunity to consider their nutritional choices anew.
The plan produced 441 pledges, lively classroom discussions on food deserts, posters with nutritional analyses of Flamin’ Hot snacks and even a deft rap written by Carver freshman Dominic Mori. His lines include: “They’re so hot they got you burnin’ yearnin’ your stomach’s churnin’/Tiny and red messin’ with my head.”
There’s something a little odd about one particular snack getting so much bad press when many nutritionally similar foods seemingly get a pass. There has to be something special about a product that an entire school district, along with a whole charter network ban by name.
O’Leary, though, understands. She says it’s hard not to get worried about the red spicy snack when one of the students turns in a pledge covered in Flamin’ Hot residue all over the page.