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D.C. schools chancellor defends decision to ditch chocolate milk

D.C. Public Schools officials apparently have no intention of reinstating chocolate milk in local cafeterias despite a recent grilling by D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown and the pleadings of a first-grader who polled his fellow students. In an email to Brown dated June 22, newly-confirmed schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says the decision to remove chocolate and strawberry-flavored milk from schools was part of an ongoing effort to make school food healthier, that the sugar in flavored milk puts many students at risk of obesity and heart disease, and that not serving more expensive flavored milk frees money that can be used to …

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First-graders and Big Ag agree: More chocolate milk!

Milk: It does a body sort-of good.Photo: a little tuneD.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown says he's in possession of "research" conducted by a first-grade pupil that convinces him schools in the nation's capital should bring back chocolate milk. Brown made the remarks in an animated exchange last week with Kaya Henderson during hearings to consider her confirmation as schools chancellor. Brown said he was impressed by the nutritional information on flavored milk the first-grader had amassed, but more likely, Brown was tagged by the long arm of the dairy industry, which relentlessly pursues efforts to keep flavored milk in schools to offset decades of decline …

Read more: Food, School Lunches

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USDA rejects GOP demand to undo new school meal guidelines

What's the price of healthier school food?Photo: Ed BruskeThe Slow Cook has learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not back away from proposed guidelines for more expensive school food despite demands from Republican lawmakers that the agency eliminate any requirements that would increase the cost of the federally subsidized school meals program. The GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee recently attached language to a funding measure for agriculture programs directing the USDA to rewrite the proposed school meal guidelines so that they do not create any additional costs. The USDA has estimated that the proposed guidelines as currently written [PDF], …

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Please sir, I want some more

Why raising the price of school lunch is a bad idea

Scene from Dickens' Oliver Twist. Drawing by George Cruikshank, circa 1837.At a time when many families are struggling with money -- and racking up millions of dollars in debt at school cafeterias -- school lunch is about to get more expensive. The hike is mandated by the recent Child Nutrition Reauthorization passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. Schools that now charge only $1.50 for lunch would, over time, have to increase the price to at least match the federal contribution for a fully-subsidized meal -- currently $2.72 -- according to a provision in Congress' recent reauthorization …

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Let them eat cake with strawberry milk

USDA releases new nutritional guidelines for school meals

Kids at an after-school program in Washington, D.C.Photo: Mark Fenton/Bread for the WorldDo all children deserve the chance to eat real food at school? Or is processed junk food good enough for those whose parents can't afford to pack their lunch? That's the central question in the school-food debate. And judging from the proposed new guidelines [PDF] that the USDA has finally issued for the federally-subsidized school meals program, the answer is a depressing one. The proposed guidelines are little changed from recommendations made by a panel of prominent nutritionists for the Institute of Medicine in October 2009, representing the …

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Save the half-pints

Getting sugar out of schools means getting it out of milk too, says head of Harvard nutrition

This is no way to start a kid's day.Photo: Ed BruskeThe USDA requires that schools offer milk with breakfast and lunch. Given a choice, kids unsurprisingly and overwhelmingly prefer chocolate milk over plain. Estimates indicate that between 60 and 70 percent of the milk consumed in the school meals program is flavored. Many children start their day with a government-sponsored breakfast consisting of strawberry-flavored milk containing nearly as much sugar ounce-for-ounce as Mountain Dew, poured over a bowl of Apple Jacks or other sugar-enhanced cereal. Until recently, kids as young as five in the District of Columbia routinely were being …

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Vitamin D-bate heats up

New report challenges whether chocolate milk is better than no milk in schools

Photo: Ed Bruske"Milk -- it does a body good," claimed a '90s dairy industry advertising campaign, and few have dared to question the industry's position that children need calcium and vitamin D however they can get it, even if it comes from sweetened flavored milk. (The National Dairy Council's latest campaign is even called "Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk.") But a landmark study on calcium and vitamin D nutrition recently published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) poses a serious challenge to that idea, finding that only girls aged 9 to 18 might need more calcium -- and only …

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Put down the cookies, Santa

Scientists say carbs — not fat — are the biggest problem with America's diet

Just in time for the holiday-season blizzard of baked goods comes the news that carbohydrates -- not fat -- are more likely to be responsible for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and the other ills of modern civilization. The Los Angeles Times has a detailed report on the growing body of  scientific evidence that until now has been treated as nutritional poison: Fat is good, carbs are bad. "The country’s big low-fat message backfired," Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Times. "The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates …

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There's no such thing as a free healthy lunch

As Congress tells schools to raise lunch prices, some worry kids will go hungry

Elementary school children in southeast Washington, D.C., eat their lunch. Photo: Eugene Menbane/Bread for the WorldSomehow Congress can find money to give tax breaks to billionaires. But in a little-noted provision of its reauthorization of child nutrition programs, signed into law today by President Barack Obama as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, lawmakers have told schools to raise lunch prices to at least cover what it views as the full cost of making a meal. Entitled "equity in school lunch pricing," the new mandate could, by increasing prices gradually for students whose families aren't low income, pump an additional …

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Lunching the numbers

Lessons from Ann Cooper’s school-food revolution in Boulder

Editor's note: This is the final installment in Ed Bruske's epic Cafeteria Confidential: Boulder series. Yet despite these in-depth dispatches, Ed still left out a lot. To read about his couch-surfing adventures in Boulder and his behind-the-scenes observations of kids at lunch, visit his blog, The Slow Cook, for an epilogue.  Is Ann Cooper a superhero, or can any school district do what she's done in Boulder? Ann Cooper is conducting a clinic in Boulder on how to rescue school food. Is anyone paying attention? In remaking the lunch line in Boulder schools, Cooper has revealed the federally subsidized school …

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