Instead of launching a cafeteria sit-in or school walkout over school lunches, students in the Plum Borough School District in suburban Pittsburgh are proving that all it takes to stage an effective protest is a smartphone and Twitter. The price of a lunch has risen to $2.50, and students say they're not going to pay more for lower quality food. The social media savvy high schoolers have pledged to boycott the cafeteria food and bring a sack lunch from home. They're using the hashtag #BrownBagginIt to let the world know why.
One student named Will tweeted yesterday, "everybody in plum who is in elementary to high school start #BrownBagginit to protest against the district high prices and low quality food." The volume of tweets with the hashtag made the protest one of the city's trending topics on Twitter.
The smaller, less satisfying portions aren't the fault of the district, according to food service director Maryann Lazzaro. She says they're simply following federal school lunch guidelines that require more fruits and vegetables. "If you're working with 650 calories for a meal, and 140 comes from a milk and 70 comes from fruit because fruit is now mandated ... you've only got a small amount left for the protein the bread and the vegetable," says Lazzaro.
Parent Jo-Ann Ward concurs that the issue is "not a reflection on the school or the lunch workers," But for kids who play sports after school and may not get home till after 5 p.m., it's not enough food. "Most kids are having to purchase 2 lunches or 1 lunch and a bunch of extras just to get through the day," says Ward.
How long will the protest continue? Student Sean Burgundy tweeted today that "#BrownBagginIt is not a 1 day thing. Nobody knows how long we're gonna be doin it. We need to keep it up until we change PHS for the better!" Given that students nationally are getting the same portions, we can't help but wonder if the brown bag protest will spread.