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."

Beth Bluj October 03, 2012 at 12:12 PM
The solution is very simple - the government needs to butt out and Pomptonian needs to go back to what they were doing because they do a great job. There were always healthy choices to those that wanted to take them. Not every kid eats their fruits and vegetables (not every adult does either). I would gladly pay $4.00 for the same lunch my kid received last year for $2.50 if he received the same lunch: a nice-size wrap with meat, cheese and lettuce, a homemade soup, a fruit juice and a cookie. Now, he gets a small roll, 3 oz. of meat, has to pay extra for 1 piece of cheese, a skim milk, and a fruit and vegetable that he throws out because he doesn't like. All for about $3.50. To those that are going to tell me I have a choice to brown bag it - I already do. But that choice goes two ways: if I choose to give my kid $$ to buy lunch, then he should be able to choose what he wants to eat. As I said before, if the government is so worried about childhood obesity then they should be funding more after school program, sports in schools, and fitness rooms in schools. Keep it up Brandon and Nicky - people are starting to listen!
Analli Citall October 03, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I agree, if we want the government out of our business we should just not take any federal funds so that we do not have to listen to their rules. Once we stop taking funds from the Federal Government we don't have to follow those pesky nutritional guidelines and can feed our kids anything we want. Yeah, I guess we could do that today by just sending them to school with a bag lunch. But it is so much better to bitch about the government telling us what to do as we stand here with our hand out wanting them to subsidize our meals.
Pete October 03, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Persistence is the key. Historically, every movement that made any difference, had to keep on day-after-day, even in the face of opposition. And you can bet that opposition will arise. Keep it up, kids. Remember, this is just the START of the school year. When your actions start to eat into the bottom line of the school system and the food provider, they'll pay attention.
Michael Brancato October 03, 2012 at 01:07 PM
The problem here, as you've inadvertently pointed out, is that we need to teach our children how to eat properly. We should be teaching them that fruits and vegetables are what they should eat, not meat and bread. But since parents don't know how to eat properly, their children think it's ok to throw away those vegetables. As usual with the school system, everyone is so quick to blame the government for problems without bothering to look at the parents and what they're teaching their children. I really have to wonder how many people were complaining a few years ago when it was publicized that school lunches were mostly fat and sugar, only to complain now because their kids aren't eating the healthier choices. Increasing funding for after school and sports programs will not solve childhood obesity. That may help some children, but will miss many who do not participate in those programs. All of the children in school eat lunch (or should be eating lunch, but that's another discussion), and teaching them to eat healthy foods in healthy portions is the best way to have healthy children who grow up to be healthy adults. Good eating habits start at a young age, and continue throughout life.
PeoplesChamp October 03, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Maybe instead of boycotting healthier food, the kids should demand that their healthier food be subsidized by taxes on crappy food.
Melanie Adubato October 03, 2012 at 01:26 PM
On the day of the strike, my son witnessed students being "booooed" for buying lunch. They were forced to admit that they were getting free lunch. Apparently everyone was not fine with it .While we believe the strike is a worthy cause, and we borwn bag-it everday, it is not OK to embarass or call out students who choose to get their lunch in the cafeteria.
Beth Bluj October 03, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Michael - As you inadverntenly pointed out: parents should be left to parent and the government should be left to govern - not dictate. I have always taught my kids how to eat properly, however, I cannot control their taste buds. I have one that eats tons of fruits and vegetables and one who prefers meat and potatoes. So be it. My kids are not overweight, are active, and can make their own decisions on what they like to eat. There is no problem with TEACHING healthy eating habits. MANDATING what kids can eat is just wrong. As far as those kids that choose not to participate in after school programs - should the government mandate that too? Isn't it better to eat healthy AND exercise? Of course it is. However, it's a personal decision and one that should be made between and parent and a child.
clyde donovan October 03, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Everyone is entitled to their own chioce of action. If the the students who are boycotting are tagged as bullies, the protest will be brought to a halt.
clyde donovan October 03, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The kids could suppliment their Obama Starvation Food Plan with road kill they find around Parsippany. It worked for awhile for this restaurant: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57523746/ky-restaurant-closed-after-bringing-in-road-kill/
clyde donovan October 03, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Schools should not have lunch programs. The taxpayers should not be forced to support food service in schools. Take your lunch to school or go hungry. Parents should not expect the taxpayers/schools to raise their children. If you buy into the "It Takes A Village" form of child rearing, grow up. If your child is overweight, gets no exercise and eats junk all the time, don't expect the taxpayers to "be funding more after school program(s), sports in schools, and fitness rooms in schools." Responsible parents properly feed their kids and make sure they get adequate exercise - and they do not expect the taxpayers to foot the bill.
Andrew Choffo October 03, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I have just learned that a new state mandate regarding the sale of ice cream will go into effect in our school district shortly. As far as I understand the mandate, ice cream sales will no longer be allowed. Some of our elementary schools sell ice cream once or twice a week as part of PTA fund raising with the help of PTA volunteers. The kids love this occasional tasty treat and the proceeds help fund the PTA’s activities. Unfortunately this too now ends.
Rosetta October 04, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Booing the students ...not a good thing. But I do not feel anyone needs to be getting free lunch. Making a bagged lunch does not cost a lot of money. What do the parents do when the children are off for the summer....not feed them lunch because it's not free. Also, what did they do from birth to kindergarten?? No lunch??
Rosetta October 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM
That's really nonsense. If a child eats one ice cream a week, that is not going to make him/her obese. I'm sure most of the students who purchase the ice cream, also eat it at home. It's not like the school ice cream is adding a huge calorie count.
Frank Drebin October 04, 2012 at 03:40 AM
BULL-DOODY Did anyone see the picture of Obama delivering 6 oizzas to his campaine wirkers in the Tue Star ledger, Nanny Michelle didn;t have proplem giving free food for her presidents workers. Could be next year co-chairs Nanny Michelle and Nanny Bloomburg will be on the Health Dept. Food strike should continue @the hills
Beth Bluj October 04, 2012 at 12:00 PM
@Andrew - is this really true? If the PTA is not federally subsidized, how can they be told that they cannot sell ice cream? Maybe that is the loophole that PTA can use to get around this ridiculous situation. What's next - no pizza sales on 1/2 days?
Analli Citall October 04, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Utoh, I am not for a nanny state at all and think individual freedoms and choices are of utmost importance. That being said, do you disagree that certain parents do make poor decisions? Based on your comments about good parents, is the opposite true? Do bad parents deserve the same fundamental rights? What about the kids who come from bad parents, "it sucks to be them"? If you don't like the Federal Government telling you what to eat for lunch THEN STOP TAKING FEDERAL DOLLARS TO SUBSIDIZE YOUR MEALS. No one has a problem telling people on SNAP (food stamps) or an EBT Card what they can and can't eat. How is this any different?
Andrew Choffo October 04, 2012 at 02:53 PM
@Beth Bluj As far as I know, the sale of ice cream will stop in the near future as a result of this state mandate. I may be able to get additional information next week. I will suggest that the President of the Par-Troy Council of PTA's contact the administration for further information. I am with you on this as I believe that the federal and state government has again crossed the line in tromping on our parental rights.
Natalie Davis (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
It's true, Beth. We'll have something up about it soon. The mandate, as Andy said, comes from above, not from the district. Anyone who wishes to share a thought on the subject is welcome to drop me a line at natalie.davis@patch.com.
Kelly Belle October 04, 2012 at 10:24 PM
those 2 kids from PHHS who started this brown bag /cafe strike I bet you anything they are doing it for attention since you don't hear anything about the other high doing this crap.... It seem like those 2 are just like a lot of other kids who hardly buy lunch or bring anything from home but try to get stuff from other kids that pay for it... one word FREELOADERS!!!!! PULL UR BIG BOY PANTS AND GET A JOB SO YOU CAN BUY YOUR OWN LUNCH AND STOP BEGGING ITEMS FROM OTHER KIDS!!!
Kelly Belle October 04, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Louise Ciccone October 04, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Pomptonian is required to comply with the law. Refusing to buy their products because of something they have no control over hurts their business. Hurting Pomptonians business will do nothing to change the law. Contacting your legislators is a more effective way of getting your voice heard, while it may not get you as much local attention. It's awful about the kids on free liunch being booed and exposed.
Anonymouse October 04, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I didn't hear of any kids getting booed until now. I heard some little jokes made about 1-2 kids buying or getting free lunch. Either way, free lunch is nothing to be ashamed of. If you get it for free, take it. If not, well then don't take it is what Brandon told me, and I fully agree with this. Kelly, I am sorry you feel that way but that is absolutely not true. They are doing this because they don't want kids to be paying at least $5.20 for a filling lunch they used to get for at least $2.50. It takes way longer for word to get out to anyone when sending letters to the white house, especially when so many are being sent from across the country for varying reasons by others. These reasons could include anything from a few classes in each school sending letters to the president to a few people suggesting changes to laws. If these two didn't start this, do you really think any of these kids would have done anything? I wouldn't have. I would've just grumbled about it and bagged my lunch again after getting tired of it. And believe me, I am almost at that point. The fruit isn't even ripe by the time the last lunch period comes around. If the fruit I got was ripe I would actually eat it, but the fruit I get is almost never ripe.
Kelly Belle October 04, 2012 at 11:47 PM
bet you anything it was the 2 ring leaders of that lunch strike who told their buddies to boo them and shameful how the school dose nothing about anyone who does since that goes under the heading of BULLING!!!! THE PHHS SHOULD BE ASSHAME OF THEMSELVES CAUSING THIS CRAP just for the ATTENTION.... BRAVO TO THE PARSIPPANY HIGH KIDS FOR NOT FOLLOWING THEIR LEAD!!!!
Kelly Belle October 04, 2012 at 11:59 PM
well what I have read i saw lunch was 2.60 which is fair price for a school lunch but if you wanted something special you should have to pay the price of ur lunch.... there isn't a sandwich place out there that doesn't charge more then 5.00 for a sub and if you want it your way well pay for the add ons..... I have plenty of friends with kids in different school systems who pay 4.50 per day for lunch who eat very healthy portions of fruit and veggies and they have been doing this for a number of years ....
Kelly Belle October 05, 2012 at 12:11 AM
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
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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