Plum students plan a brown-bag protest
By Karen Zapf
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Lunch participation rates at both Oblock Junior High and Plum High School plummeted more than 50 percent the first week of classes after students joined in a Twitter protest.
Sean Doyle, 17, said he started the Twitter protest under the hashtag #BrownBagginit last week because of the 25-cent price hike, smaller portions and what he believes is poorer food quality.
“I got over 50 followers in 24 hours,” said Doyle, a senior. “We are trying to get positive change. Plum can do something on its own.”
As of last week, more than 1,800 tweets had been posted under the hashtag.
Plum School District food Supervisor Maryann Lazzaro said the high school served 984 lunches on the first day of school — Aug. 27. The number served plummeted to 244 on Aug. 31 – a 75 percent decrease.
The brown-bag protest also spread to Oblock Junior High.
Lazzaro said 565 lunches were served Aug. 27 and 204 on Aug. 31 – a 64 percent decrease.
Plum High School has 1,357 students, and Oblock Junior High has 670, according to enrollment numbers at the beginning of the school year.
Lunch prices increased this year to $2.15 at elementary schools and $2.50 for secondary school students. The cost of milk increased 5 cents to 50 cents.
The new lunches include servings of fruits and vegetables every day, only fat-free or low-fat milk, reductions in saturated and trans fat and lower amounts of sodium designed to conform to new federal mandates, school officials say.
Doyle is not happy with the baked French fries as well as the portions.
Delaney Stewart, 17, also isn't happy with the food selections or the portions.
“We normally get two corn dogs,” Stewart said. “On the second day of school, we got one,” Stewart said. “One corn dog is not enough for a growing student in high school.”
Stewart also is not happy with the fruit offerings or the baked French fries. She plans to bring a brown bag lunch.
“I'm bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Stewart said.
Lazzaro said late last week that the district has worked out the problems with the French fries.
“They now look like they are out of a fryer,” Lazzaro said.
She said students have had about 10 varieties of fruit selections including bananas, grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe.
“The fruit is excellent,” Lazzaro said.
Lazzaro said she has concerns that students who are bringing chips and soda are not getting the proper nutrients.
“I hope they will come back and eat the healthy lunch we are preparing for them,” Lazzaro said. “No matter how much they protest, this is not going to change. It is federal law. It's like taxes. You may not like it, but you have to pay them.”
Board member Joe Tommarello, a 2011 Plum High School graduate, empathizes with the students but told them the district is following federal mandates.
“I feed bad, but we have no control,” Tommarello said. “I told them nothing will change unless you knock on the door of the White House.”
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