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Brown Bagging Movement Affects Plum Food Service Staff

A lunch-packing movement created by Plum High School students has negatively impacted the district's food service department.

It's been a little over a week since the "Brown Bagging" movement began in the Plum School District, and it already has impacted the food service departments financially.

In an effort to protest new federal guidelines on school lunches, hundreds of students at the packed their lunches instead of buying. Beginning this school year, school districts—Plum and Riverview included—began following the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requiring district lunchrooms to serve more whole grains; fruits and vegetables; fat-free or low-fat milk; and foods with lower sodium.

Students initially said they weren't pleased with the increased cost of lunches, the smaller portions and the quality of the food. Their movement has been in the national spotlight for the last week—students in Minnesota followed Plum's example.

Food service Director Maryann Lazzaro said that because the department is a standalone entity, meaning it's not funded with taxpayer dollars, it has been severely impacted by the lunch-packing movement.

Last Monday and Tuesday, Lazzaro said the department served around 900 lunches each day at the high school. That number dropped to 200 by Friday.

Lazzaro said Oblock Junior High numbers also plummeted last week.

"The junior high had a larger impact than I thought," she said.

Consequently, the food service employees have been affected. Lazarro said a long-term substitute is no longer needed. The 15 high school kitchen employees also have been shifted around to fill vacancies in other school buildings because the department's current performance "can't support" that many employees in one building.

"That means that the subs aren't getting work," Lazarro said. "I don't think that people realized the repercussions of this. It could go all the way to down the vendors and delivery people who might work on commission. It's been a difficult situation."

Some students are beginning to realize what an impact the movement has had.

"This #BrownBagginIt idea was good until people who had nothing to do with it could lose their jobs..including my mom," Tweeted one Plum student. "Done #BrownBagginIt."

Another resident wrote, "Well, labor cuts have started in the PHS caf cuz of the #brownbagginit movement! good job kids! hard working people will be out of work now!"

However, sales have been increasing this week. Lazarro said 300 lunches were sold on Tuesday, 400 on Wednesday and 500 on Thursday.

Many students continue to support the protest and are packing their lunches to school. The #BrownBagginIt hashtag on Twitter still is very active and students continue to post photos of their lunches from home.

Though lunch guidelines are regulated by the federal government, the food service director stands behind the quality of food served in Plum.

"The quality has not changed," Lazarro said. "We have not changed one single food item, and we're using the same brands we used previous years. The food looks different because it's not fried, but the brands are the same.

"We have a beautiful array of food items. If I wasn't proud of every piece of food I serve, I wouldn't be as disturbed about this as I am."

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Reba's Pet Service September 07, 2012 at 12:24 PM
It is awful that people's jobs are being affected but I still stand behind the movement and the plum students. No one is ever heard, and things never change unless you stand up for what you believe in. Plum taxes keep going up and budget cuts are made all the time why not use this opportunity to make some good changes. Good programs are taken away while so much food is wasted daily at the school. Maybe it is time to revamp the lunch program. I loved the Sharing table idea another resident wrote, has that been established yet and if not WHY?? Why throw away perfectly good food and milk containers that haven't been opened. We don't need the students to stop packing and start buying again to fix this we need things to change, wasn't that the point so come on Plum lets do this....
Tom September 07, 2012 at 01:28 PM
so blame the kids for people losing jobs?? Why not place the blame where it belongs, stupid regulations...
Jason September 07, 2012 at 01:51 PM
This is how things work. If I stop going to Shop n Save people will loose there job as well unless Shop n Save becomes more competitive. This is why the regulations are have gone to far they are making it so that the school can not compete with other options.
JoAnn September 07, 2012 at 02:20 PM
My last child graduated last year but my neighbor said they were brown bagging because they were forced to take fruit and charged more if they didn't. If this is true then I say keep going. Government should NEVER have the power to force you to eat what they want. Layoffs are unfortunate but necessary, and hopefully temporary.
Fil September 07, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Great job kids.... The government doesn't pay for your food you do. Keep the brown bagging up and maybe somebody will listen.....and give you what you want.
Madmomma September 07, 2012 at 04:54 PM
"Food service Director Maryann Lazzaro said that because the department is a standalone entity, meaning it's not funded with taxpayer dollars, it has been severely impacted by the lunch-packing movement." ...if it's not funded by taxpayer dollars, why is it subject to federal regulation?
Joy Mowry Schwartz September 07, 2012 at 05:58 PM
It's not the fault of the students that employees will lose jobs, but it's a good lesson that things that happen at the highest levels of government end up trickling down and affecting individuals. I have thought all along that students and parents should be contacting local elected officials to express dissatisfaction.
Jennifer Duffy September 07, 2012 at 06:16 PM
you go Joy!
Frustrated parent September 07, 2012 at 07:00 PM
I am disappointed to see Mrs. Lazzaro stoop to guilt to get students to eat food the do not like. While I am sorry a few people's jobs are temporarily impacted, guilt is the wrong way to address the issue. The delivery drivers and vendors for whom Mrs. Lazzaro appears to be concerned are making up the lost school district revenue by delivering to the local grocery stores. Shop N Save was sold out of brown bags. The kids are still eating. They are simply choosing to spend their lunch money at Shop N Save rather than Plum High School. You should not guilt kids into being hungry, so someone at the school can have a job. If you truly felt the lunches were substantial enough for the students and if you believe only healthy food should be consumed at school, you wouldn't sell "extras" (which are cookies, pop tarts, etc) everyday.
SlunchSeeYa September 07, 2012 at 07:28 PM
If you hate school lunches like this Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/slunchseeya) it has a 107 likes so far. Once it is big enough I will send it in to the white house with information for Michelle Obama to see on it! So if you want to make a change let’s make it happen. Like the page, discuss, and share your photos about school lunches.
L D September 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
This is what happens when the Federal Government steps in where they don't belong. What's next?? Will they force the kids to buy lunch and "tax" the ones who refuse??
e.t September 10, 2012 at 02:02 PM
the government needs to spend more time concentrating on bringing down the deficit and improving the economy ..
JLCR September 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I want somebody to tell me where you can get a lunch for $2.50. Good luck packing a lunch for that price. Schools are not making any money from these lunches. Not enough food? Do people even know what a normal portion size is any more? Or, are we just so used to going to McDonald's and eating three times the appropriate amount? I realize some kids need more calories, buy two lunches then. $5? still a bargain. Better yet, buy a lunch and supplement from home. If kids want to pack their lunch because they prefer food from home, that's fine, but boycotting healthier lunches seems ridiculous.
Clem Carlson September 14, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Maybe Mrs Lazzaro should go and eat some of the crap they're serving. Our kids refuse to eat what they are serving and they are in elementary school. Not hard to figure out. Maybe get rid of Mrs Lazzaro and hire someone cheaper that can get the job done. The food program was failing long before the new federal guidelines.

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