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.