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School Lunch Strike Has No End in Sight at Par Hills

Organizers say the next official strike day will be Friday, but some students say they'll continue to brown-bag it.

Buoyed by the positive attention the Parsippany Hills High School lunch strike has received, organizer Brandon Faris is excited.

According to the Par Hills senior, the protest against the new federally mandated school lunch program he organized with junior Nicholas Caccavale appears to have taken on a life of its own.

"Nicky and I decided we weren't going to do [the strike] every day this week," he said."It'll be on again officially this Friday, but people still aren't buying lunch on their own.

"I'm happy, Nicky's happy , we can't believe it actually is going so well," he said, marveling at the attention the school has garnered for students' decision starting last Friday to refuse to purchase anything from the school cafeteria. 

"People in power are listening to us and taking the strike seriously," said Faris.

What the people in power—and the rest of us—are hearing is that students are angry.

The new lunch program administered by Pomptonian Food Service under mandate from the federal government has caused controversy at schools across the U.S. Under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, this school year initiated a new menu that featured lower calories counts, smaller portions of protein and bread and larger fruit and vegetable servings. The law also required a price increase to cover the higher cost of healthier foods.

To the students' minds, what they're getting as a result is less food for more money. And since many of the youngsters are tossing their fruits and vegetables, they aren't even getting the maximum 850 calories the law calls for—so they're anything but hunger-free.

With that in mind, Faris and Caccavale founded a Facebook group and, on Friday, launched their boycott.

Suddenly, the Par Hills strike and other high school protests like it, became big news across the country, and in Parsippany, Faris and Caccavale became media darlings, appearing on CBS News, Fox News and News 12, among other outlets.

"The media bit has its ups and downs, said Faris. "It's cool being on TV, but we were just worried about getting the lunch program changed. That was our goal."

Since the school district is forced by the government to comply with the lunch program or else receive hefty fines, the new menus will stay in place for the time being. But Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz praised the students' "respectful" protest and he said he planned to talk about options with Pomptonian and state and federal officials.

Additionally, there is word that some members of Congress in Washington are looking for ways to amend the lunch law.

In the meantime, the strike goes on.

Faris insists that the action is voluntary. 

Some students worried that if they opted to buy lunch, they would be teased or harrased by their school mates. Faris said that while it is true that there were students who purchased their lunches surreptitiously and hid in the nurse's office to eat, their concern is baseless.

"If you choose to buy lunch, people respect that," he said. "Some people did buy lunches [during the strike]. Everyone was totally fine with it."

But he makes clear that if people choose to boycott the cafeteria, that's their decision.

"It's not official," he said. "We don't plan to strike again officially until Friday. And we may possibly make it something we do every Friday until we get the menu changed.

"It's not 100 percent definite yet, but it could happen."

Anonymouse October 05, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Yes, but you need to understand that many people in our area can't afford such high prices. Many people I know were earning a reduced or free priced lunch last year. They are getting free lunch throughout the first few months of this year as well. I am a Boy Scout and trust me, there are way more people amongst us who can't afford things like this. They may not have any food at home, let alone the money to get it. The school can only afford to give so many kids reduced prices. What happens when one kid gets left out of the program for reduced or free lunch and he can't even find food at home?
Kelly Belle October 05, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I FOUND OUT THAT THE SCHOOL LUNCH IS 2.60 IF THEY WANT BACON AND THOSE SPECIAL WATER DRINKS THEN IT'S MORE.... STOP CRYING THAT THE SCHOOL LUNCH COST 4.50 OR MORE WHEN YOUR THE ONE ASKING FOR EXTRA ITEMS TO UR ENTREE OR SANDWICH ANYWHERE YOU GO IF UR ADDING DRINKS AND CHIPS SURE YOU HAVE TO PAY MORE..BTW MY HUSBAND IS A FORMER PARSIPPANY HIGH JOCK AND HE ALWAYS HAD FRESH FRUIT/ WATER WITH HIM DURING PRATICE AND GAMES TO KEEP HIM GOING....
Nita Younger October 06, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I think the whole idea of legislating school lunch is over the top. This is a squeaky wheel issue. Just go to any school & look around you'll see mostly healthy, ordinary weight, kids. Yes obesity is a problem, but so is starvation & hunger. But neither is the majority. One of these days those 2 headlines might be side by side. Then what? Sadly we probably do probably have to legislate nutritional value, you know, after that "ketchup is a vegetable" debacle. Technically children need a certain amount of fat & sugar, as those are the only nutrients used by the brain. And school might be considered a brain workout.
utoh October 09, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Kids from PHHS are the best!!
utoh October 09, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Analli Citall There is a very small number of abusive parents, GOOD parents are forced to send a child to a abusive home by the courts, more than one child has been removed from loving caring homes for no reason while the judge tells the parent to shut up and sit down! A family left the county not to comply with a judges order to send their children to the gp who were extremely abusive to the parent as a child. I get that laws and court are there for the sm few who are abused but they went too far ripping kids from loving homes that are to fat, too skinny, too tall next? Good Parents shouldn't have to spend thousands to in court to protect thier kids against a legal system that is invasive and tearing families apart.

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