“Eat, Spit and Be Happy.” That’s the motto of ConAgra’s David Sunflower Seeds. That also apparently is the motto of most people who sit in city park bleachers as evidenced by the abundant piles of sunflower seed shells literally left in the dust.
Every time I go to one of my sons’ baseball games in Burbank, I cringe knowing that I have to sit in the bleachers, desperately searching for a clean place to put my rear and feet so that my body doesn’t touch the shells that fly out of people’s mouths.
The main culprit is people who selfishly think that spitting out food debris is okay, assuming city workers will clean up their mess. I observe many people, from senior citizens to young kids, spitting out their shells all over the place. The benches and the areas underneath the bleachers are blanketed with them.
I was told by one city official that the habit of spitting out shells is an ingrained cultural trait, as old as the game of baseball.
However, what is wrong with posting signs asking people to use the park trash cans? Another city representative said that the problem with posting a sign is that there are too many signs already posted. However, in many areas there isn’t a single sign around.
The mess that greets visitors at city parks does not show off civic pride. Of the Burbank City Council, it appears that the only Councilman Gary Bric cares about this issue since the mayor and three other council members did not feel the issue warranted an acknowledgment to a citizen, let alone a journalist.
I contacted ConAgra to see what they thought about this issue. Company spokesperson Daniel Hare said that he thinks there is no public health issue when it comes to shells from sunflower seeds even though the shells have saliva on them. Does he think the company’s ad slogan encourages young people to spit? He didn’t think it was a problem. Would ConAgra consider a public service announcement on their packaging and advertisements such as “please do not litter”? No comment.
Even if the question of public health is debatable, spitting out shells is still littering. Would these litterers like it if some of the shells fell onto a family member’s hair? How about if a toddler without shoes were to walk on freshly spewed shells still wet? Evidently, it isn’t a health concern. Accompanying my piece is a photo I took last Saturday at Burbank’s Olive Park, Field Number Three. It was early in the morning, before most of the games were played that day and, as you can see, the place clearly wasn’t cleaned in who knows how long, certainly not that day.
Is this the type of impression city officials which to leave with its citizens and visitors, that Burbank parks are dirty?
Why not dedicate one maintenance worker to keep all city park bleacher areas clean via sweeping or blowers especially on days the parks are heavily used?
By not cleaning the mess people leave, it encourages more people to be messy. Think of a park toilet that is unkempt. People are more likely to contribute to the filth rather than control their dirty habits.
And parents and grandparents, what kind of habits are you modeling for your children? Imagine if the shells were cigarette butts. Would people be okay with that? Probably not because smoking is considered one of the worst things a person can do in public in today’s times. But having food products spewing from one’s mouth is fine.
Burbank city officials should seriously consider posting signs at all city park bleacher areas, “Please Deposit Sunflower Seed Shells in the Garbage Cans.” Do we need to resurrect the old public service announcement with Iron Eyes Cody with a tear streaming down his face? Maybe it should be Babe Ruth crying.
BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher. He can be reached at brian-crosby.com.