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Students at Niles West Go on #LunchStrike2013

Students at Niles West High School are going on a lunch strike. The movement has gone viral since students started posting pictures of their cafeteria food. Some are saying the prices are too high and the portions are too small.

Today, some Niles West students will be ditching the school's organic lunch menu in favor of food packed in a brown paper bag in what they're calling #LunchStrike2013.

In just 24 hours the strike has gone viral among the community. There’s a Facebook page - it's titled "Lunch Strike" - and has more than 1,500 followers. There's also an online petition that Niles West sophomore Mike Wheeler created.

But if you want to know how students really feel, Twitter is buzzing with the hashtag #LunchStrike2013.

Niles West junior Benjamin Zenuovic started the Facebook page on Monday. Zenuovic said he wants to see the school’s cafeteria food change and added that students aren’t getting their moneys worth.

“The portions are too scarce,” Zenuovic said. “The reason I made the page is because I saw a picture of one of my friend’s lunches on Facebook and it looked horrendous. The picture on Facebook gained a lot of attention, so I created the page to try to alter the quality of the food and the amount of food given to students and athletes.”

Yet there’s been some controversy regarding today’s strike. Zenuovic added that some students are being called “spoiled and not appreciative of what they’re getting."

“I just don’t think the quality of the food or the price is what the students want," he said.

Michelle Sproat, a junior and broadcast editor for the Niles West News, said some students feel the strike is unreasonable.

“Some are saying that the kids are acting greedy,” Sproat said. “On the flip side, it’s not that they’re not appreciating what they’re getting, it’s that they’re paying so much and getting so little.”

Sproat added that a slice of pizza is $3. A burger, $4. Want to add a drink? That’s another $2, Sproat said.

“It’s like restaurant priced,” she said. “In the beginning of the year, people were OK with [the food], but the quality has gotten worse. That’s what’s making people think, ‘Wow, I’m paying so much for such low quality food.’”

School principal responds -

Niles West principal Kaine Osburn released a statment regarding the strike on Tuesday.

"In recent weeks, a number of student complaints have been made to the administration regarding portion sizes in the cafeteria being too small.

Representatives from Organic Life are scheduled to meet with student government next week to address those concerns.  At that meeting, representatives from the Niles West and District administration will be present.

If students wish to express their dissatisfaction with Organic Life by boycotting the food service, that is their right.  We trust that students will not engage in such disruptive behavior that other students cannot obtain lunch in a safe environment."

The number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals has risen from about 5 percent in 2006 to more than 30 percent in 2010.

In September 2012, District 219 settled a $650,000 contract dispute with food provider Organic Life for $300,000, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The Chicago-based food service threatened litigation for labor and enhancement costs, the publication reported.

In July 2011, the District 219 school board approved a contract with Organic Life and ditched former food service Aramark.

“Several factors led to this recommendation. We believe we will have much healthier food, and that is something we heard over and over from our students," said then-assistant superintendent for business services Paul O'Malley in a July 2011 article. "They want something that not only looks good, but tastes good.”

Michelle Martin contributed to this story ~

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Jerry Sepanski January 30, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Oliver, I'm glad you agree with me about taking lunch programs out of the schools. It's too bad your comments are meaningless without the use of your real name. Ta! Ta!
Pete January 30, 2013 at 11:19 PM
God damn breakin news twice on the same subject im in texas on vaca an could care less. Like this is breakin news. Our first lady ran comercials on tv explaining how important it is to eat a balanced meal , then put our econemy in total caiouan reached in our pockets an stole more money from us. WHAT DO U EXPECT. WE CANT AFFORD TO EAT RIGHT THE SCHOOLS CANT AFFORD TO FEED OUR KIDS BUT THE PEOPLE IN POLITICS KEEP GETTING RICHER AN RICHER. WHERE DO U SEE THE PROBLEM
Emily Rotblatt January 31, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I think it's a ridiculous thought to make students bring their own food. Sure people used to do that, but that was because most moms of that day were stay-at-home moms who had the time to prepare meals. Today everyone works and this is simply not an option for most parents. And forcing all students to make their own lunches? I an a college student and graduate of Niles West and I can say that those students have tremendous responsibilities. They have to get up for school way earlier than I do, and many of them stay there until dinner time, involving themselves in school activities. They obviously love West to devote so much of their time and energy to making it better, and the school should provide them with the necessary sustenance to do so, namely by increasing the portions but not the price. If the kids are going to give so much to the school, a place they, by law, are required to be, shouldn't the school at least feed them right? Emily R, former student.
Betty Boop February 01, 2013 at 03:54 AM
I was one of those weirdos who brought my own lunch almost exclusively from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The school lunch system is bad in almost all districts, I think, and Niles West is only a small part of a larger issue. While I think there should be decent quality cafeteria food, the idea that you need a "stay-at-home mom" to make you food when you're in high school perplexes me. It takes all of ten minutes to make a sandwich. There are plenty of sides that require almost no preparation, like a lot of fruit (apples, grapes, etc) and granola bars, fruit snacks, potato chips, and other processed food of varying healthiness. I would make myself a sandwich of some sort every night before school, rinse some fruit, and throw in a small bag of potato chips or whatnot. Busy as I was, it took me ten minutes max, and I rarely bought a single thing from the Niles West cafeteria. I graduated from West in '09, so suffice it to say I've never experienced the current food, but I didn't experience the old food either. I think it is good for the students to learn how to make foods that are simple and quick but still taste relatively good. It's a skill I've continued to develop through college, and it's served me well. I wish I knew about hummus and pita bread when I was in high school (hint, hint).
Brian Hickey February 05, 2013 at 02:28 AM
I hear the Surf and Turf and Valet parking are gone now too. The poooooor children. High School kids today are pampered and treated like kings. Shut up and study.

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