Food Fight: Mom's Crusade Against Sweets in the Classroom

MeMe Roth has taken some drastic measures to prevent junk food at school.

June 17, 2009 — -- One Manhattan mom's battle to prevent her children from getting junk food has turned into a food war between parent and school.

MeMe Roth, a 40-year-old mother of two, objects to children getting sweets like popsicles, cupcakes and cookies even during special occasions in public schools like the one her children attend.

"You don't want to create an environment at school that promotes junk food," Roth told "Good Morning America" today. "Just because... you send your child to school and they're in someone else's care, that does not mean you're forfeiting your rights as a parent."

Click here to tell "GMA" what you think about sweets in schools.

Her campaign against Girl Scout cookies, doughnuts and candy is so extensive that Roth wants the school to attain permission slips for special sweets like birthday cupcakes.

"If you bring in a serving of one, that's about your child. If you bring in a serving of 25, that's about everybody's children and that's what I think people are missing. We don't bring food into school. We're asking other parents to stop feeding our children," said Roth of the National Action Against Obesity.

'Going To Be in The Throes of An Obesity Bailout'

She's called Santa Claus fat on television, knocked "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks for being overweight, and was stopped by police from dismantling an all-you-can-eat ice cream display in 2007.

The display was at a Pennsylvania YMCA, Roth said, and was inappropriate for a gym.

"If you get off your butt and you show up at the gym, you don't want to be confronted by an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar," she said.

Roth said she called the YMCA and asked them to put out "something on the table that's a healthy alternative."

The junk food crusader's passion has deep roots. As the daughter and granddaughter of obese women, Roth saw firsthand the damage extra pounds can bring.

"When you see obesity rob the people you love the most of their health, and their hope, and their aspirations you really feel like you can't pleasantly sit back and allow it to happen to everybody else's kids and your kids," she said.

Now, she's determined to ensure her fourth-grade son and second-grade daughter won't have to go through the same experience.

She doesn't want them derailed by what she calls "second-hand obesity."

"Show me an American that knows what 'moderation' means," Roth said. "You're kidding yourself if you think we're not going to be in the throes of an obesity bailout."

And Roth hasn't shied away from trying to spread her message, using a sometimes in-your-face style of confrontation about food.

Food Fight Over School Treats

The principal at her children's school, said Roth recently lost her cool during a meeting. The administrator claimed Roth tossed Valentine's Day candy and used foul language to get her point across.

In 2006, it prompted one PTA parent from the South Mountain Elementary School in Millburn, N.J., where her children were enrolled, to email her, "Please, consider moving." Roth did pack her bags and head to New York City's Upper West Side, where her children now attend P.S. 9.

Each day Roth gives 9-year-old Mason and 6-year-old Julia a piece of Tupperware to take with them to school. She calls it "the junk food collector." Whenever either of them is offered an item of food other than what's on the school's lunch menu, they are supposed to put it in the plastic container, take it home and have a discussion about whether or not it's fit to eat.

She sees it as a moment of empowerment and thinks it's necessary to protect her kids' health since people often give her children unauthorized snacks.

One day when Julia put a juice pop in her junk food collector, a teacher told her she couldn't do it because it would melt. The special treat was given because it was a hot day and the teacher said Julia could eat it or lose it. She lost.

But neither harsh criticism, social scorn nor a call to the police will deter Roth in her mission to fight obesity.

Roth's fervor to fight fat may be somewhat understandable given the rise in childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 32 percent of children and 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese and the World Health Organization estimates 90 percent of women worldwide will be obese by 2030.

While some may see Roth's intentions as admirable or even noble, others think she's taken her food mission too far.

"What's a birthday if there's not some sort of treat?" questions parent David Jordan.