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New England mom's actions change a food label

Posted by Kristi Palma  February 25, 2013 10:37 AM

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Chelley Martinka, 28, of Cranston R.I., went grocery shopping with her husband and daughter one day in December. When she reached for a pickle jar, what she saw offended her. The Cains label in front of her read "Kosher Dill Midgets." The Martinkas have a 10-month-old daughter named Adelaide who has Achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. She went home, created the above video, shared it on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, as well as with the company. The result? The president of Gedney Foods, the Minnesota company that owns the Cains brand, called her personally to tell her the label would be changed. We reached out to the company for a statement and it did not provide one, but it told the Providence Journal in an email that it is "simply doing the right thing." Martinka talked with Boston.com Moms about the experience.

Boston.com Moms: Tell us about your daughter Adelaide.
Martinka: She is beautiful. I call her 'Bouncy,' because she shakes her little booty. She’s your average 10 month old. She’s incredibly happy. She's your average baby except she is currently 24 and a half inches, which is a few inches shorter than her peers, and her head is a little bit larger. And that’s a feature of the type of dwarfism she has. She has Achondroplasia.

martinkablog.jpg

Boston.com Moms: Take us back to the day you saw the Cains pickle jar that said “midget” on the label. What was your reaction?
Martinka: My husband and I had gone to the grocery store. I’m a huge pickle lover. We were there together perusing the aisles. I looked around, I looked at the jar of pickles and my immediate reaction was 'mama bear' – I’m going to smash those jars. But mama didn’t raise no fool. My mom always told me: to be reactive doesn’t do anything. Be proactive. I went home, I sat down, I created an account on Animoto and I created the video there. (Photo: Martinka and daughter Adelaide, courtesy of Chelley Martinka)

Boston.com Moms: Tell us your thoughts about the word “midget.”
Martinka:
I call it the m-word. It is considered derogatory. It is on par with other words that we have stricken from our vernacular. And I’m simply trying to remove a word that, when used toward my daughter, is derogatory.

Boston.com Moms: What gave you the idea to create a video for the company to see?
Martinka:
I meant it to be more of a video letter. There are only so many letters you can write to a company and they get lost in a pile. So I made the video. In no way did I feel it was attacking. I offered my support. The song, I sort of just liked it’s message. I liked that it’s got a cheerful beat to it. It’s not oh-woe-is-me sounding music.

Boston.com Moms: Do you think it’s your approach that resonated with the company?
Martinka:
I do hope it was my approach. My motto has been to not be reactive. Reactive would have been to slam those jars on the ground. I would have been known for five minutes as that mom in Cranston who smashed jars in the grocery store and I would have been embarrassed. I am in no way embarrassed over this. If you don’t want to change your product then don’t. I’m not coming after you with a lawyer. I’m a stay-at-home mom in Cranston. My husband and I are just trying to do right by our daughter. We don’t ascribe to the sue-because-you-hurt-my-feelings (attitude). I really just want to educate.

Boston.com Moms: How did you find out about the company’s decision?
Martinka:
The president of the company called. He showed the video to their board and they agreed that the term was perhaps outdated and that they would change their marketing.

Boston.com Moms: What was your reaction?
Martinka:
I was very proud. I’m proud of myself. I feel like I made a change. I feel like I did something great, not just for my daughter, but for other children and adults.

Boston.com Moms: What’s your response to the company’s response, that they want no press, that they’re just doing what's right.
Martinka:
Doing the right thing does not mean they ever did the wrong thing. Changing with the times is just changing with the times. It does not mean they did anything wrong.

Boston.com Moms: You have a blog, A is for Adelaide. Tell us about your blog.
Martinka:
There’s been some confusion about this. I started it before this. We learned when we were in the hospital (that Adelaide has dwarfism) and that’s where I wrote my first blog post. I’m from Philadelphia, living in Rhode Island, and my immediate family is 250 miles away and my sister is in Florida. It was just to connect everybody and educate my own family initially.

Boston.com Moms: You blogged that some people have been hateful in their comments on your blog since all this happened. How do you feel about that?
Martinka:
I know the life of a blogger is the life of an oversharer. It’s the perfect life for me. It’s an open forum. It’s opened people's eyes to things. No I don’t like to be attacked. I never attacked this pickle company. I never put them down, I never suggested that people shouldn’t buy their product. I buy their product. I like their pickles. I’m an adult and you take things in stride. The comments against me aren't nice. And that's fine.

Boston.com Moms: Your supporters are calling you inspiring, compassionate, peaceful, and eloquent.
Martinka:
I do it for my daughter. She’ll never look at me and say, 'Mom you went nuts and you embarrassed me.'

Boston.com Moms: You posted on your blog that you are speaking with local community centers about getting rid of midget leagues, teams, and squads. Are you optimistic that this will happen?
Martinka:
I really am.

Boston.com Moms: What terms are acceptable when referring to people with dwarfism?
Martinka:
According to Little People of America -- I quote them because we are members and their support has been invaluable to us -- little people, a person of short stature, a person with dwarfism.

Boston.com Moms: Did you ever imagine you’d be in the public eye in this way, making a difference in this way?
Martinka:
(laughs) 100 percent no.

Boston.com Moms: What’s your advice to others who feel strongly about a cause and want to make a difference?
Martinka:
I encourage anybody who feels strongly about a cause to get it out there. Start a blog. Or contact a blogger who can help you get the word out. One status on Facebook from one parent can go viral. We can all make changes if we so desire.


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Welcome to Parent Buzz, where you can read about and discuss the hot parenting issues of the day, find family-friendly events in Boston and beyond, and get parenting tidbits and tips.

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Kristi Palma, Boston.com Moms producer, is the mom of a first grader and a preschooler. She is a writer who enjoys cooking her grandmother's Italian recipes (when her son isn't launching paper airplanes into them). Follow her on Twitter @kristipalma.
Jennifer Clark Estes is a teacher, writer, blogger, and the mother of four young children. In her free time, she blogs at A Mom's World, plays with the kids (or chauffeurs them around), and is desperately seeking a quiet spot so she can read a book. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferCEstes.
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