In Londonderry, Middle Schoolers Launch A Lunchroom 'Revolution'... For Corn Dogs

Mar 12, 2016

Corn dogs. Sometimes delicious, sometimes controversial, always covered in batter.
Credit Mary via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/ZnDmU

  What happens when a school takes one of those lunchroom staples off the menu?

Something big – at least if you look at recent events at schools in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Reporter Ray Carbone wrote about what he calls the Great Corn Dog Revolt for the Eagle Tribune.

He joined Weekend Edition with more on the story.

 This debate over what kids should eat at school vs. what they actually will eat is nothing new – especially in Londonderry – but even with that town’s history this was quite a situation. How did this “revolution” get started?

Last year they hired a new director of dining services, a bright young woman named Amanda Venezia. Among the changes that she made was, she looked at the middle school menu. You might remember that Londonderry is one of only a couple districts in the state that is no longer on the federal food lunch program.

She decided that they were no longer going to eat corn dogs; I can’t remember the exact words but she said something like they were lacking in nutritional integrity. A fried hot dog covered with corn meal…

Sounds perfectly nutritious to me.

She decided to remove the corn dogs and eventually replaced them with pierogis. And the students didn’t like it that much.

But what’s fascinating was that the students didn’t just refuse to eat the pierogies, they took their concerns to the powers that be – which in a way is what educators probably would want students to do, even if their cause is corn dogs.

Yes, and actually she was. [Venezia] paid them all kinds of kudos at the meeting of the school board. Four particular young men caught the sense of the cafeteria and said, no, we will not put up with these dumplings, we want our corn dogs back!

So they put out a petition – the petition doesn’t actually mention corn dogs, it just says we hate your dumplings, we don’t want your dumplings anymore – they passed it around, and apparently got close to 100 signatures. A couple of teachers signed on – probably with the same kind of idea, that at least they’re doing something kind of constructive.

And they brought it back to Amanda, and her response was basically, no corn dogs but I will talk to you. They talked and came up with a compromise, which was mozzarella sticks, which I guess are not quite as horrible as corn dogs.

When Amanda was talking with these boys, she left herself open to their suggestions, and they said, why don’t we have a breakfast platter – a French toast stick, sausage, and a pancake, four or five items. She said, that’s a good idea, she put it on the menu, and it’s done very well. In fact, it’s done so well that she’s recently added appropriately-sized versions to the high school and elementary school menus. And she says it’s one of the more popular items.

So: no corn dogs still, but everybody feels like there’s progress being made.

It’s actually kind of funny, because the last time I talked with her, Amanda went out on maternity leave. She said, I kind of got word of a fair they want to hold at the high school and they’re going to serve corn dogs at it. While Ms. Venezia is away the corn dogs are going to come out.