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School Lunch Strike Over, Old Menus Return

Federal government dumps parts of nutrition policy imposed in September and boosts portion sizes for protein and grains.

Under the weight of complaints from students, parents and educators—and even a lunch strike by students at Parsippany Hills High School—the old school lunches are back.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday it will eliminate smaller portion requirements for grains and proteins in school lunches for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year. Those former requirements, which turned out to be unpopular in the township and throughout the nation, were mandated by the federal 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Under the law, which took effect at the start of this school year, portion sizes for protein and grains were cut in favor of larger fruit and vegetable servings.

The change did not go over well with students. Parsippany Hills students initiated a boycott and many stopped buying cafeteria lunches. The Par Hills protest was just one of many happening at schools across the U.S., including one by students in Kansas that went viral on YouTube. The lunch controversy even caught the attetion of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart.

Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz praised the students' effort at the time.

"We commend the students for their initiative to increase awareness of the new federal regulations and for the respectful way the boycott was handled," he said. "Hopefully the boycott will help lead to meaningful discussion at the federal level."

Clearly, it didn't hurt. This announcement was made in Parsippany schools Tuesday morning:

"Effective immediately, Pomptonian Food Service will restore entrées back to their traditional sizes. They are working with their suppliers to make this change as quickly as possible."

Par Hills senior Brandon Faris, who organized the lunch strike in September with junior Nicholas Caccavale, hailed the return of the old lunch menus.

"This is great news to me and Nicky and everyone else in our school," he enthused. "We believe that the lunch strike played a part in the change. Our word got out all over the country and was definitely heard by many schools across the nation."

The USDA has not announced whether the larger meat and grain portions will continue into the 2013-14 school year, but department officials said they will continue to assess the requirements over the coming months.

With the return to the old lunches, students received some advice in Tuesday morning's school announcements: 

"Pomptonian encourages everyone to make healthy dining choices and to eat a balanced meal. Every day there will be a variety of entrées available. Your meal includes a choice of an array of fresh fruits and farm fresh vegetables."

Of course, whether the children will eat the fruits and veggies remains to be seen.

"The first school lunch I plan on having is a breaded chicken sandwich from the deli line," Faris said. 

OnTheBeach December 11, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Yay! Way to go boys!
Ginny Mack December 12, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Score one more for the government!!!!!!
Andrew Choffo December 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I am thrilled to see action by the federal government on this issue. This law was ill conceived and implemented in an inconsistent and haphazard manner. This was yet another clear example of an out-of-control federal government overstepping its constitutional authority at the expense of parental rights. I also applaud the students who participated in the boycott, bringing much needed attention and ultimately action, to this matter. Great job! I also congratulate the school administration for not overreacting to the boycott and letting students express their concerns in a respectful and professional way.
Kathy Izzo December 17, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Good work! The Goverment should not be telling the citzens of the United States what we can and cannot eat....they have a lot more pressing issues to deal with in my opinion.
VietNam Vet December 27, 2012 at 06:52 AM
Now if we can just Boycott the federal gov. and stop the needless spending going on in this country. We need another Boston Tea Party, no more higher taxes without the feds tightening their belts like everyone else.

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