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Sackets Harbor moms hope to change school lunch portions

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SACKETS HARBOR — Jamie L. McGuire and Sarah J. Gordon never would have guessed they would be activists for change.

After their children started complaining about the meager number of chicken nuggets served at lunch, the two Sackets Harbor Central School District moms started an online petition and Facebook page in September that protest small school lunch portions.

The Causes.com petition reached its goal of 5,000 signatures on Saturday and will be sent to local and national leaders to seek change in the form of more and better school cafeteria food.

“I only have 500 people on my Facebook, so I don’t know how I got so many signatures,” Mrs. McGuire said.

She has three children attending school in the district but said she is pushing for larger portions so children from poorer families have enough to sustain them through the school day.

She said that she is glad the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 encourages children to try healthier food, and that she believes chicken nuggets and other not-so-healthy children’s favorites need to be replaced with larger portions of foods that are nutritious and filling.

Mrs. McGuire said she knows of families who struggle to put food on the table and depend on free school lunches to be their children’s main meal. For those children, she said, three chicken nuggets and a cup of broccoli will lead to rumbling bellies by 2:30 p.m.

“I know of many people, and I’ve been told by the school that there are even more out there,” she said. “I want to make sure kids in our area are taken care of. I want to make sure kids in the state are taken care of.”

The mothers’ argument even has international support; signatures have been collected from as far away as Norway, Finland, France and Brazil.

“Even in other countries, they’re saying we shouldn’t have such small portions,” Mrs. McGuire said.

In the next few weeks, Ms. Gordon and Mrs. McGuire will give their petition to Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and state Education Department Commissioner John B. King.

Petitions also will be sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, Kevin Concannon.

“We would like to get in touch with the people who could make a difference or who have contacts to people who can make a difference,” Mrs. McGuire said.

She said she has been in touch with Sackets Harbor school administrators so they are not made to feel the drive is a personal attack.

Additionally, she said, it is not the school’s responsibility to prevent childhood obesity or make a child eat zucchini.

“I want to make sure portions are appropriate for their age and not because the government is trying to put our children on a weird diet,” Mrs. McGuire said.

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