Patricia Mulvey reported on the blog F is for French Fry that a group of fourth-grade students at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School in Madison, WI had planned to protest the unhealthy food served in their cafeteria by staying behind in class during recess and enjoying a home-cooked meal. Their “Real Food Picnic” – you might call it an Eat-In – was cancelled, however, when the school district’s assistant superintendent alerted parents and school administrators and asked them to discourage the event, citing concerns about food allergies, lack of supervision and the presence of news media.
The fourth-graders are members of a student-run group called “Boycott School Lunch (BCSL)” that they founded last fall after conducting some “gross experiments” in the school cafeteria, like measuring how much grease they could squeeze out of a hamburger. At the time, the students happened to have been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in history class. When teacher Joshua Forehand showed them a movie about the Children’s Crusade that took place in Birmingham, AL in 1963, the students were inspired to organize a peaceful protest in support of bringing healthier food into the school.
Fourth-grader Sierra Mueller-Owens told The Capital Times that “We had planned really good meals [for the protest], and I was hoping a lot of people would enjoy it.” She also had hoped that the school district’s food service program would feel the impact of fewer lunches sold that day. Instead of organizing a protest potluck, the students involved in Boycott School Lunch are now planning a letter-writing and petition campaign. Their parents have requested a meeting with the school district to discuss supporting the students’ efforts and ensuring that the lunch program provides the real, nourishing food they want to eat.
According to the The Capital Times, student boycotts of school lunch have been cropping up all over the country. In the Westby school district near Lacrosse, WI, middle-schoolers staged a three-week school lunch boycott last year. The students’ bold action exasperated school administrators and led to a district-wide meeting that brought 250 parents together and resulted in positive changes to the district’s lunch program.
That fourth-graders and middle-schoolers are now organizing for change is a sign of how urgently they want to eat real food instead of the overly processed junk food that’s endangering their health. There’s never been a better time to take action: this fall, the Child Nutrition Act, which is the bill that funds and sets standards for the National School Lunch Program, is up for reauthorization. All parents, teachers and responsible citizens who want to see America enjoy a healthy, prosperous future should take note: we have an opportunity to push Congress and the Obama Administration to take the first step towards a future where no child is denied his or her right to good health and where every child is able to enjoy real food. Let’s pass a Child Nutrition Act with more funding and healthier standards for all the food served at school. The health, the education and the future of the 30 million children who eat school lunch everyday depend on us raising our voices.
This post originally appeared on The Slow Food USA Blog.