Debriefing the Medford MA School Lunch Boycott

On Nov. 26 I pointed out a story about High School students inMedford Massachusetts who were organizing a boycott of school lunches via Facebook. Someone linked my post on the Wall of the Facebook event page being used to organize the boycott so I had a lot of traffic from Medford, MA for a couple of days. I even got a comment from a student from the school who wrote,

"too bad our sub-master is taking it as a joke. today i heard him say to another studnet "i think the people that started the boycott are confused."

I cruised through the wall comments for the event page and have a couple of observations:

It's amazing the tensions that arose in the district administration. As reported here the district superintendant took the claims of unsafe food as a threat. He said, "That's like saying there's a bomb in the high school." He added that they've been working to improve the menu; "he said, the menu offers no fried food, no snack-cakes or other unhealthy desserts, and very few processed meats. For $2.85, students get their choice of a pizza, salad, hot entree, or sandwich - as well as a fruit and vegetable, whereas students had to choose one or the other in prior years." That actually sounds pretty good to me as school lunches go. At the end of the day the Medford district administrators did come and attend lunch and posted an article about it that has subsequently been removed. Go to http://www.medfordpublicschools.org/2009/11/school-leaders-dine-with-medford-high-school-students/ to see the blank page. Who knew lunch boycotts would be the bomb threats of today's high schools.

Rachel Norton, a San Francisco district administrator chimes in that the boycott is misdirected. She points to a lack of funding as the primary culprit and recommends that activism should be directed at legilsation. She says;

Right now there is a golden opportunity to increase the funding that districts in high-cost areas (like San Francisco) receive to serve meals to students, as the Child Nutrition Act will be reauthorized in 2010. Click here for information (including sample letters) on writing to members of Congress urging them to increase the amount of funding for student nutrition."

Based on the wall posts it seems like the event itself actually had mixed results. Over 500 students signed up to participate but it appears that participation was spotty. One student chimed in, "I feel like not enough people did this; I don't think it was a success." and another said "IT WAS A FAIL!!!!" But then another student commented, "Superintendent Belson said it does not appear that a planned student school lunch boycott took place. Is Belson &%$#% blind?"

I suggested in my previous post that today's high school students are more mature than my 80's era of students. It was actually comforting to read through the posts and see that while today's students may be really web savvy they're much like the people I remember from high school. The comments are a combination of idealistic grandiosity (i.e. "Let us stay together and come at them stronger than anyone ever has! We WILL be remembered for this guys! as a whole generation, the ones who fought for change, we will go down in history if we are successful so lets not give up!") and harsh but not very helpful assessments of the state of the world, (i.e. "These lunches suck.").

That's the high school I remember and more power to 'em. Maybe they really will be the generation that helps sort out the mess we've made of our food systems.