Pity the poor students of Metamora High School, near Peoria, Ill., one day living off the fat (and sugar) of the land, the next day facing draconian dietary restrictions.
At least, that’s how the students saw it when school officials banned the student-council-sponsored sale of junk snacks during the lunch period.
But school superintendent Ken Maurer, a self-proclaimed “every-other-day, three-mile slow jogger,” saw his effort to restrict student consumption of empty calories as a logical offshoot of a district campaign to encourage healthy living.
“We had kids going through the line and getting three Twinkies, and that was their lunch,” says Maurer. “They weren’t making wise choices.” So in place of such contraband confections, the cafeteria crowd was offered nutritious treats like fruit, carrot sticks, and salad.
In the face of such cruelty, the students responded with a brown-bag boycott.
All this whetted the Peorian appetite for public controversy. Robert Roth, a DJ for Peoria’s WMBD, picked up on the story and took the kids’ side. “First, they take away their skateboards, then they take away their Twinkies,” an outraged Roth proclaimed to shocked listeners.
At Roth’s encouragement, the folks at the Continental Baking Co. shipped a truckload of their Hostess Twinkies off to the school and distributed them free of charge to the deprived denizens of Metamora High.
Not to be outdone was WMBD morning man John Williams, who sided with school administrators. Williams encouraged a local apple grower to contribute a shipment of free apples.
Finally, it all came down to a one-mile race, pitting the Cupcake Heads—who hoped to prove that Suzy Q’s and Ho Hos would not weigh them down—against the defenders of apples and such things.
Although the Cupcakes crossed the finish line well ahead of the Apple team, the policy stands. In any event, the boycott had begun to peter out as the administration beefed up the menu with entrees like pizza and lasagna, which are popular among students—and nutritious. “Everything’s pretty much died down,” says the crafty Ken Maurer. “We fought the food war with food.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 1981 edition of Education Week as Don’t Let Them Eat Cake