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Brown bags dwindle as Mukwonago High School boycott ends

Students did not want jobs affected by protest

Oct. 2, 2012

After a little more than a week of brown bag lunches, with hot-lunch purchases decreasing by as much as 70 percent, Mukwonago High School students are heading back to the hot-lunch line, feeling they made their point and their voices were heard.

With such a sharp drop in sales, Director of Food Services Pam Harris said the food program, which is self-funding, can't lose money for long before it might affect jobs.

"We wanted to make a statement to make it very clear that we weren't against the school, that we know this wasn't the school's doing at all, that we were against the federal government regulation, and we didn't want our protest against the federal government to affect the Mukwonago School District by laying off employees," said MHS Senior Class Vice President Ryan Williams. "We felt it was a good end because we got the result we wanted."

Despite the reductions in grains, with smaller sub buns, fewer nacho chips and smaller garlic bread servings, there is no overall reduction in the amount of food, said MHS Principal Shawn McNulty. The decrease in grains came with an increase in fruits and vegetables, an option some students enjoyed. Additionally, students had the option of purchasing pizza, a sub or food from the a la carte line, McNulty added.

"I think some people did like the healthy options," said MHS Senior Class President Nick Blohm.

Nick Blohm said he is going back to his old eating habits, but some kids discovered they enjoyed bringing their own lunches.

Collecting comments from parents and students, Harris said a common theme among parents was concern over the detailed way federal government is getting involved in personal lives. Additionally, parents don't seem to think that school lunches are much of a factor in contributing to obesity. Students' main concerns were with less food.

As Harris continues working with students to provide more lunch options and works on an appeal to allow the district additional time to adhere to the federal guidelines without penalty, students have been pleased with the way the boycott was handled overall.

"We learned that high school kids can make a difference, that their voices can be heard through a peaceful protest, through an organized protest of sorts, that the federal government shouldn't regulate what kids are eating," Williams added.

Harris and high school administration listened to students' concerns, and students were respectful during the boycott, Blohm said

McNulty concurred that the boycott was handled respectfully and responsibly.

"We were very proud of how our students organized and carried out the boycott. The organization and communication via social media (Facebook and Twitter) was impressive and demonstrated the power of those mediums," said McNulty. "There was no disrespect toward any of the kitchen staff nor toward any of the kids that didn't participate."

As the food service program continues to work within the federal guidelines and waits for any appeal action, the boycott provided an excellent learning opportunity for students and a great teaching moment for staff.

"We hope that we made enough of an impact at the national level in hopes that these guidelines will change," said Williams. "We are extremely happy with the lunch ladies and the administration, with them working with us and being polite."

Despite changes, McNulty said the school lunch is still the best deal in town for $2.50.

"You can't get this kind of food for that price anywhere else," added McNulty. "I would encourage our parents to come to our cafeteria and see for themselves how much food kids can get with the lunch program."

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