UPDATED: Plum Students' Brown Baggin' Movement Continues
Students at the high school say portions of school lunches got smaller while prices went up.
The "Brown Baggin' It" movement at Plum High School is going strong.
In an effort to protest school lunches, hundreds of students at the high school packed their lunch in brown bags beginning on Wednesday—and they say they're likely to continue for quite a while.
Beginning this school year, school districts—Plum and Riverview included—began following federal guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requiring that school lunches be healthier for students. That means, district lunchrooms must serve more whole grains; fruits and vegetables; fat-free or low-fat milk; and foods with lower sodium.
District officials have said the new guidelines—issued to reduce childhood obesity—required a price increase because the healthier food costs more money.
A fruit or vegetable must be served with each lunch, and calorie and sodium levels must be met, according to the guidelines.
However, high school senior Alex Benyo said it's not the school district or government's job to force students to eat certain foods.
"I agree with the nutritional movement, but it's not the school's job to push that on us," he said. "They should educate us about the right choices and not force us."
So Benyo, along with his friend Sean Doyle, began rallying other students in a protest. Spreading the word through the Twitter hashtag #BrownBagginIt, they encouraged their classmates to pack their lunches.
The movement has gotten the attention of students in other school districts (such as Riverview, Penn Hills, Upper St. Clair, Hempfield), Indianapolis Colts punter and Plum native Pat McAfee, some "Dance Moms" cast members and Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Bob Walk.
Many students are Tweeting about heading to Shop 'n Save to buy supplies for their lunches, and others are posting pictures of their decorated brown bags.
Benyo said he's impressed with the amount of traction and feedback #BrownBagginIt has received.
The high school senior said most of the students in his Wednesday lunch period packed—he heard the same from others in different lunch periods.
"It's not against the rules, and we're protesting without harming anyone," Benyo said. "We don't have anything against the lunch ladies, because they're the sweetest, but there isn't a better way to get our message across.
"We just want things to go back to normal. Hopefully, people don't get sick of packing their lunch."
Principal Ryan Kociela said he's proud of the way the students have chosen to express their concerns.
“We certainly understand our students’ discontent with the changes in some of our selections and proportions, and respect their right to bringing their own lunches," Kociela said. "Because our students have come to enjoy and appreciate the work of our food service department, the changes have created a higher level of disappointment.
"Overall, I am proud of our students for the responsible manner in which they have expressed their concerns. Their voice is important in reviewing and adapting the manner in which we serve them.”
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