Milk debate flavored with controversy

Ends on sour note for some


by: SUSAN MATHENY - First-graders Osvaldo Castaneda (front) and Itiel Medrano, pictured with his mother, get situated in their new classroom at Madras Primary on Monday, the first day of school for most students in the 509-J School District. The district had 1,567 students reporting on the first day.The decision on 509-J School District’s great chocolate milk debate made a lot of kids happy, but for some adults, the discussion ended on a sour milk note.

At a previous meeting, Superintendent Rick Molitor had made a recommendation to not serve flavored milk to grades K-8, except on Fridays. He said the board policy stated the district should “encourage students to make nutritious food choices.”

A decision was tabled until the Sept. 9 meeting, when all five board members could be present.

Both sides called in the big guns to help argue their case. Last week, it was Jefferson County Health Department Director Tom Machala supporting the elimination of flavored milk. Monday night, it was surprise guest speaker Bob Eberhard, owner of Eberhard's Dairy in Redmond, packing a cooler of nonfat chocolate milk cartons for people to sample.

District School Nurse Jamie Smith and Community Health Improvement Program Director BethAnn Beamer briefed board members Laurie Danzuka and Tom Norton, who were absent before, on the reasons for eliminating chocolate and other flavored milk.

Smith noted over 50 percent of 509-J sixth- and ninth-graders are obese. During a two-month research pilot project at Madras Primary, chocolate milk was taken away. “There was no uproar from the kids and we found white milk consumption did increase,” he said.

The concern is the 22 grams of added sugar in flavored milk. “The early introduction of sweet foods sets kids up for a lifetime of craving sweet foods,” said Beamer, adding, “Why is it that Headstart and the Women, Infants and Children program don’t provide or pay for flavored milk? It’s only served when kids get to kindergarten.”

She said for the past four years, Culver School District has only been serving chocolate milk on Fridays, and the same amount of milk is being ordered, indicating kids are drinking white milk. It also saved the Culver District $3,000 a year on milk costs.

Addressing reduced fat and fat-free foods, Beamer said, “With fat-free foods, we didn’t get skinnier because sugar was added to the foods.” She said you can’t expect 5-year-olds to make healthy choices, and the district needs to guide them through its food offerings.

Jobe, who makes up the school lunch menus, and must make sure meals meet strict federal nutritional guidelines, said, “I’m concerned kids won’t get the nine nutrients required if you take chocolate milk away. The nutrients in chocolate milk outweighs (the reasons for) not having it.”

Eberhard spoke next, noting his company has been providing milk for the district since 1969.

“We first served homogenized milk, which had 190 calories. The district wanted it lower, so we switched to 2 percent milk, then later to 1 percent white and chocolate milk,” he said.

Next, federal guidelines mandated schools serve nonfat chocolate milk with 130 calories. Eberhard said white milk contains natural sugar of 12 grams, and school chocolate milk has 22 grams of sugar. Some other chocolate milks can be as high as 29 grams of sugar, he said.

“Runners and bicyclists drink chocolate milk after a race for a quick recovery. It’s a product your students will drink, and it still has the nutrients,” Eberhard said.

Board member Lyle Rehwinkel asked if there was any way to lower the chocolate milk sugar content any more. “When it’s too low, it just doesn’t taste any good,” Eberhard said.

Board member Laurie Danzuka said chocolate milk has been eliminated at the Warm Springs Early Childhood Education program. “In the Native community, diabetes is huge. It’s not a matter of if you get it, but when you get it. Obesity is one factor, and diabetes is another,” she said.

Board member Stan Sullivan noted, “My issue is that we’re not going to solve the obesity problem by eliminating one option. In my home, we don’t have chocolate milk, and at school my kids don’t choose it.”

“I don’t feel limiting a choice is where we need to go. It’s like Michael Bloomberg did in New York, limiting the size of soft drinks. It’s a little like Big Brother,” he said, referring to too much government control.

Board member Tom Norton agreed. “We don’t drink chocolate milk at home; we use it as a treat. But Stan makes a good point.”

Board member Brad Holliday stated, “The dilemma is, when do we make policy where we’re helping kids learn, and where is the line where we’re becoming Big Brother?”

After discussion, the board voted four to one to keep serving flavored milk, with Danzuka voting against the motion.

In other business, Molitor reported Monday was the first day of school for first- through sixth-graders, and ninth-graders, and 1,567 students had enrolled. There was a third-grade classroom with 32 students at Buff Intermediate, and a second-grade room with close to 30 students at Madras Primary, which administrators will be looking at, he said.

Under personnel, one-year temporary teaching contracts were approved for Lisbet Hornung to teach language arts part time at Madras High School, and for Patrick Hawke to teach technology at Jefferson County Middle School.




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