Milwaukee County Supervisors Support YES Lunch Justice Campaign, Declare Food Is A Human Right

By: Isiah Holmes – July 12, 2022

Milwaukee County Supervisors Juan Miguel Martinez and Ryan Clancy have announced they’re standing in solidarity with student activists from Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). Acting as the youth arm of Voces de la Frontera, YES student activists have been pushing to reform the lunches served at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). In April, YES announced its School Lunch Justice Campaign, pushing for better quality food and larger portions during lunch throughout the school district.

Martinez echoed something that many YES students highlighted, that for some students school lunch may be their only meal of the day. Martinez called it “imperative that we provide our youth with fresh, nutritious meals that are in line with their religious and dietary needs.” During the April announcement, students shared concerns about lunch food not meeting the religious needs of students, such as Muslilm students who can’t eat pork. Other students are vegetarian or vegan, or have other dietary needs. He added, “I applaud these students advocating for better conditions in our schools not only for themselves, but also the many underpaid cafeteria staff they demand receive wage increases.”

Clancy called the work the students are taking on “impressive.” He stressed that, “advocacy around food justice is vital in all institutions, from our public schools to our correctional facilities, because food is a basic human right. I’m grateful for their work and proud to be able to recognize them in this way.”

Eliza Palacios, a student activist with the Hamilton High School chapter of YES, thanked the board members for their support. “In particular we would like to thank Supervisor Martinez and Supervisor Clancy for putting forward the citation in support,” she said. “The clock is ticking. The school board and administration have indicated support for YES school lunch demands, however we need real progress and a real plan to implement these demands. We are calling on the city, state and national leaders to join the struggle to provide healthy, appealing and culturally sensitive food for the children of MPS. We need to ensure that the pressure continues, and the resources are available to make this happen.”

The campaign is pushing for MPS to provide  lunches cooked at the school by food service staff, using locally sourced ingredients. Additionally, YES is demanding that students be provided with more lunch options, that the religious, personal, and dietary needs of students are accommodated, that meals be larger. Other demands include increases to the wages of food service staff and that the district establish regular meetings with YES members to monitor progress on the demands. The campaign began after YES conducted a survey of over 1,000 MPS students who expressed the need for better lunches. A petition on the issue  gathered over 21,000 signatures….

YES members design signs for the campaign for lunch justice. (Photo | Courtesy of Joe Brusky/MTEA)

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