The cafeteria at Parsippany Hills High School is doing little or no business today, as a student protest against the federally mandated school lunch program is underway and going peacefully, according to a school administrator.
Assistant Principal Todd Ricker told Patch that media are being turned away at the school door.
"We want to make sure the students don't have to deal with distractions that could get in the way of them making their point," Ricker explained, adding that in addition to Patch, CBS, Fox News and News 12 were barred from visiting the school.
"The students are eating lunch and everything is calm."
Asked whether the kids are buying anything in the cafeteria, Ricker said, "No."
Senior Brandon Faris agreed.
"It's gone really well," he said. "Only about 10 people got [the school] lunch, and they all get free lunch."
The students, led by Faris and junior Nicholas Caccavale, and bolstered by a Facebook group with more than 1,000 members, are protesting a new Pomptonian Food Service lunch program implemented at the start of this school year. The goal of the national plan—which is mandated under the new Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, a federal law designed to address childhood obesity—is to encourage students to eat healthier lunches at school.
The district has no choice but participate in the program. School districts that do not comply can be levied fines.
But students across the country are upset because—per the law—protein and bread portion sizes are smaller and prices are higher. The kids say they are paying more for less—and they're left hungry.
Of course, they might be less hungry if they ate all of the 850-calorie basic lunch, said Mark Vidovich, Pomptonian's president.
According to Vidovich, school cafeterias report that many children simply toss out the fruits and vegetables they are served, and instead purchasing add-ons like sugary drinks and snacks or additional sandwiches. He said an unintended consequence of the law is that with students throwing away fruit and opting for other food choices, they may be eating less healthfully as a result.
Vidovich said the protests taking place at the Hills and at other U.S. public schools may have an effect. He said two U.S. representatives in Congress are considering trying to amend the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.