Parent takes aim at chocolate milk [UPDATED]Published 10:48am Friday, April 29, 2011 Updated 10:48am Friday, April 29, 2011
The lunches at Fergus Falls Public Schools might get a little less sweet, if some members of the schools’ parent teacher organization have anything to say about it.
Angela Fiedler, the president of the PTO, spoke briefly at Monday’s school board meeting about eliminating chocolate milk from school lunch menus. Fiedler said she would be open to keeping chocolate milk as an option on Fridays as “a special treat.”
Fiedler’s interest in the topic of school nutrition came about recently, after she attended the Mom Congress on Education and Learning in Washington D.C. earlier this month. While there, she listened to discussions of nutrition in schools from some of the crew of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, an ABC show that tries to get schools around to country to make their lunches healthier. Fiedler also learned about upcoming federal guidelines that will mandate healthier standards in school lunches across the nation.
“My want was to get (the school board) to evaluate and do some research on this agenda before they have to mandate more fruits and vegetables and get rid of all the processed stuff,” she said. She believes a good way to start is by cutting down on chocolate milk.
The public schools provide Land o’ Lakes milk, both white and chocolate. An 8 oz. carton of the company’s chocolate milk contains 23 grams of sugars, comparable to the sugars present in an 8 oz. can of soda (but less than the approximately 40 grams of sugars found in a “regular” 12 oz. can).
Fiedler told the school board she’s glad that the district has eliminated soda machines from its schools. But, she said, “We left the equivalent in their school lunches.”
Fiedler was quick to add that she was not against parents packing chocolate milk in made-from-home lunches, and she does not want to mandate each family’s dieting decisions. But, she added, she believes that offering chocolate milk as an option can only lead to unhealthy consumption choices for many children.
“If the parent wants to give them chocolate milk at home, that’s great, but I don’t think we need to be supplementing that,” she said.
Lunch time at Cleveland School definitely shows students favor chocolate milk over white milk. On a typical day, the cafeteria serves around 400 8 oz. cartons of chocolate milk during lunch and only around 100 cartons of white milk between breakfast and lunch, according to a cafeteria server at the school (chocolate milk is not served during students’ breakfasts).
One person who’s OK with the chocolate milk intake of students is Becky Shearer, the cafeteria manager for all of the district’s schools. Shearer said it’s very important to her and her staff to follow all USDA requirements when it comes to nutrition in school lunches.
“We can offer chocolate milk as long as it’s skim or it’s fat free,” she said. Though chocolate milk might have more sugar in it than regular milk, she said, it still provides the calcium and other nutrients that are found in white milk.
“I think a lot of kids get their milk that way,” she said, adding that it’s possible that kids might choose not to drink any milk at all if chocolate milk is taken away. And that concerns her.
“I feel that they should drink milk,” she said. “It’s important in their diets.”
School Superintendent Jerry Ness explained that the public schools have a wellness committee that is working on improving the school lunches’ nutritional standards and eventually bringing the school in line with upcoming federal mandates. If chocolate milk is to be taken out of lunches, he said, it will likely come as part of broader changes recommended by the wellness committee.
“It will just be a total review of all of the school’s food service,” he said.
“The new federal recommendations certainly still allow for it,” said Erica Yoney, school nurse and the chair of the wellness committee. But, she added, that doesn’t mean that the school needs to keep serving it. She welcomed the input of PTO members and said there was definitely room for them in the nine-person committee.
“We’re thrilled that we have parents who have this kind of excitement and energy,” she said.
Yoney also explained that the schools are already working to reach upcoming nutrition guidelines.