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No more sugary milk, cereal for D.C. Public Schools

dcps_milk.jpg

UPDATED 7:30 P.M.

Allow me to amplify a Friday scoop from Post-reporter-turned-food-maven Ed Bruske: The D.C. Public Schools will no longer offer its students sweetened, flavored milk. Where kinds once had the option of chocolate or strawberry, now they'll choose 1 percent or skim.

The milk changes start a week from today, when summer school opens.

And this fall, further changes may be in order. DCPS spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway says the system's "goal for this upcoming school year is to serve cereals with six grams of sugar or less."

"We will be taste testing low-sugar cereals, as well as other nutritious breakfast and lunch items, this summer to determine which breakfast options are both healthy and appetizing to serve to our students," she writes in an e-mail.

The changes are part of a first wave of reforms heralding a new awareness of the poor quality of school lunches here. Ed, for one, has done yeoman's work via his "Tales From a D.C. School Kitchen" series at The Slow Cook in showing just how lousy the food we give kids is. DCPS took a big step toward healthier lunches by hiring Jeff Mills, a ex-restaurant chef ex-restaurateur who has pledged to increase the quality of school meals.

The heavy lifting is yet to come: It's one thing to take away patently unhealthy choices from schoolkids; it's another to add new, healthy choices. That's the goal of the Healthy Schools Act passed by the council earlier this year and funded in the fiscal 2011 budget. Among its many provisions is to raise school nutrition standards above federal baselines and to spend more money per meal to improve quality.

Besides the sugar-busting, other changes could be coming to some schools this fall.

DCPS is currently evaluating proposals from food service operators to overhaul the school meals via two pilot programs set to launch in August.

An award should come by mid-July, Calloway says.

Photo courtesy of Ed Bruske

UPDATE, 7:30 P.M.: Correction: Mills is not a chef, but a former restaurant owner and consultant.

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 22, 2010; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  The District  
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Comments

The difficulties of making this successful were well demonstrated in Jamie Oliver's mixed results in Huntington, West Virginia.

Changing the food is one thing. Getting the kids to eat it is another...

Good for everyone when it works

Posted by: shepDC | June 22, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the "get kids to eat it" bit when I read that anywhere.... if the option is: healthy food or no food.... the choice would be food or hunger. Pick one kiddies.

Good job on a good program DC - make the food healthy!


Posted by: Greent | June 22, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It's easy to say eat or go hungry, but if the children throw away more food than they eat, it's a waste of taxpayers' money and the children still go hungry.

Convincing children to make healthier food choices when they don't usually have those options elsewhere in their lives is a habit that takes time to instill. Kudos to DC schools for taking the first step.

Posted by: couper | June 22, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

They are called eating "habits" for a reason.

Ask any smoker if they would rather have a cigarette or a piece of fruit.

These types of changes should be worked in gradually, i.e., smaller and smaller portion sizes for bad choices, etc.

Posted by: ThrityYearResident | June 22, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Does this also mean that La Tasshia Kevlar Dre Johson may no longer breast feed her 4th or 5th babbies daddy's kid through the tap since she just ate a snickers bar?

Posted by: ursofakingdumb1 | June 22, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

We begged for a LONG time to have the pink - even my kids know better than to call it "strawberry" - milk removed. So glad it will be gone. Most days, only chocolate or pink milk were available by the third lunch period.

The Healthy Schools Act, which has some lovely and important parts, MANDATES that the currently unhealthy and sometimes dangerous breakfast be served DURING instructional time, beginning Aug 24. Our school was selected downtown to pilot the ill-conceived program, despite our loud and direct protests to Jeff Mills and others. We ended up sending our kids 15-30min late every morning to avoid it and plan the same action for the Fall. What were we avoiding? Frosted pop tarts, "maple" glazed fake bread, Apple Jacks, and other food-like products that DCPS pathetically argued our "poor, under-performing students need".

We are mighty peeved at the lack of respect and thought shown to us by DCPS, and the city council (particularly well-meaning but ill-informed Mary Cheh).

Posted by: dcparent | June 22, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

We begged for a LONG time to have the pink - even my kids know better than to call it "strawberry" - milk removed. So glad it will be gone. Most days, only chocolate or pink milk were available by the third lunch period.

The Healthy Schools Act, which has some lovely and important parts, MANDATES that the currently unhealthy and sometimes dangerous breakfast be served DURING instructional time, beginning Aug 24. Our school was selected downtown to pilot the ill-conceived program, despite our loud and direct protests to Jeff Mills and others. We ended up sending our kids 15-30min late every morning to avoid it and plan the same action for the Fall. What were we avoiding? Frosted pop tarts, "maple" glazed fake bread, Apple Jacks, and other food-like products that DCPS pathetically argued our "poor, under-performing students need".

We are mighty peeved at the lack of respect and thought shown to us by DCPS, and the city council (particularly well-meaning but ill-informed Mary Cheh).

Posted by: dcparent | June 22, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

At the schools where I've worked the chocolate always runs out first.

Posted by: Nemessis | June 23, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget pancakes and sausage on a stick - which translates to a corn dog with syrup packets.

Posted by: purplewarrior | June 23, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Better train the folks in charge to have all kids and parents know any change to whole grains -- as in cereals -- has to be gradual so the bodies adapt. There is a large fraction of kids whose intake of fiber now is so low, that whole grains -- as in a breakfast cereal of shredded wheat every day -- will result in bloating, flatulence, and watery stools they, their peers, and their parents will complain enough about to bring the program to a halt. This from experience at an ECE, stopping the supply of 30-40% sugar breakfast cereals.

Posted by: incredulous | June 23, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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