Student Activism in Action: Former Governor Pat Quinn joins Ray Elementary School to Support Student Polystyrene Ban Petition

Last month students from Ray Elementary School, along with former Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, made history when they took a trip to the Chicago City Hall to present their ordinance to ban polystyrene use in Chicago restaurants.

As part of their Pilot Light Food Advocacy Project, 6th grade science teacher Vicki Drewa and her students worked throughout the 2018-2019 school year to develop a petition and wrote letters to gain support for their proposed ban on the use of polystyrene, a plastic that is widely used in restaurants as packaging materials such as containers, lids, trays, and disposable silverware. 

This year-long Food Advocacy Project with Pilot Light addresses several Food Education Standards. There are negative health and environmental impacts associated with Styrofoam use. Polystyrene is non-recyclable and slow to biodegrade, contributing to the build-up of litter in the environment, and it’s been linked to cancer.  In addition, through this process students are learning how to advocate and making informed decisions about the packaging of the food they eat.

Following-up on the student’s letters, former Governor Pat Quinn met with students at Ray Elementary School to deliver words of encouragement and activism. “Now is the time for grassroots pressure,” said former Governor Quinn. “This is what democracy is all about. Abraham Lincoln said government by the people, for the people. You are the people!”

The following week – during their summer vacation, no less – students and teachers signed their petition and filed the ordinance with the City Clerk on June 25, marking the first time in the history of Chicago that a group of 6th graders presented an ordinance. “You are making history!” exclaimed former Governor Quinn.

Pat Quinn and students met with media outlets, ABC, Univision and WBBM Newsradio, to convey the goal of the ordinance (read the coverage here). Students also met with Alderman Daniel LaSpata to convey the petition. 

On July 24th, the students returned to City Hall to hear their ordinance assigned to the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, and met with Committee Chair Alderman George Cardenas to discuss next steps.  It is expected that the ban will be presented in September.  

We encourage you to call your neighborhood Alderman and express your support of the polystyrene ban on single-use containers in Chicago.

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