America fell in love with ‘Little Miss Flint’ long ago. What’s she up to now?

You may have seen her photo ops with Obama and Trump. Here's her story.

When 7-year-old Mari Copeny was crowned Miss Flint in the spring of 2015, she and her mom already knew something was wrong with the water in their Michigan home.

The water — which they would later learn was contaminated with lead from corroding pipes — was giving the family rashes. “We knew something was up, but [at that point] we had no idea it would become such a widespread crisis,” explains Mari’s mother LuLu.

Mari Copeny. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.


Months later, officials confirmed the suspicions of residents in Flint, Michigan. The water had been switched to a new supply source in April 2014, and was corroding the city’s pipes. The result? Severe, widespread lead contamination — an incredibly dangerous issue, especially for children.

After news of the unsafe water broke, Mari was ready to do everything she could for her community.

Mari (who’s now 9) has been doing community service since she was 3, often focusing on helping bring positive light to local law enforcement. But when she learned that the water in her town was dangerously contaminated, “She became concerned about the kids, especially her brother and sister,” says her mom. “She asked to go out and protest and help to pass out water.”

Mari with a friend at a water donation drive in Ohio. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

Since then, Mari — now known as “Little Miss Flint” — has helped with bottle drives, marched in parades, talked on the news, and become a voice for change.

She may be best known for a letter she wrote to President Obama in spring 2016, which helped spur his decision to visit Flint in person. “Even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits,” Mari wrote.

President Obama responded to Mari’s letter with a promise to visit the following week and added, “Like you, I’ll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community.”

Mari meeting President Obama in May 2016. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari poses in front a mural in Flint of herself and President Obama. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

The water in Flint is still not safe.

In the past few months, Flint has begun to fade from the public eye. The water in Flint has now been contaminated for two and a half years. Federal aid funding to fix the issue has been approved by the United States Senate, but the progress toward clean water is slow going. Because the lead contamination in the water was coming from the pipes themselves, all the affected pipes in the city need to be changed before the water can be declared safe.

In Mari’s house, the family is still using bottled water to cook, drink, and brush their teeth.

“Sometimes kids can be the ones that end up making a change,” Mari insists. “Just because we are kids doesn't mean that we can't change the world.”

In many ways, Mari is just a normal 9-year-old kid: She likes to draw cartoons, read, and ride her bike. But until the water in Flint is 100% safe, she intends to continue fighting for justice in Flint. She explains, “My favorite thing about being Little Miss Flint is being able to be a voice for the kids here in Flint and getting to meet and make new friends.”

What’s the one thing Mari wants to tell the whole country? “That the Flint water crisis is far from over, so please don't forget about Flint. And to the kids, remember that one kid can change the world!”

Mari poses in her "future president" shirt. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

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WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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