Avon Elementary bans chocolate milk | VailDaily.com

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Avon Elementary bans chocolate milk

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyFifth grader, Marisor Cruz, third from right, addresses parents and teachers about the steps she and her classmates are taking to get grant money to pay for healthier school lunch food Monday at the Avon Elementary PTA meeting in Avon.

AVON – Chocolate milk is out.

Ray Edel, director of nutritional services for the Eagle County School District, acquiesced to parents’ demands Monday night that he remove chocolate milk from Avon Elementary’s cafeteria. However, he reiterated his concern that without a flavored option, children won’t drink as much milk.

“The chocolate milk will be taken out but many studies have been done stating that milk consumption has gone down 30 to 60 percent,” he said.

Parents packed a Parent Teacher Association meeting at Avon Elementary Monday night, peppering Edel with questions about school lunches and voicing their concerns about the chocolate milk.

Susan Moran, a parent who has a son in fourth grade at the school, said a lot of doctors recommend children drink whole milk.

“I’ve never talked to a doctor that recommends my child drink chocolate milk,” she said.

Luz Rios said she does not want chocolate milk to be one of her kindergarten daughter’s choices at the school.

“At home, we offer milk, 1 or 2 percent,” she said. “Of course, when they come to the school, my daughter is going to choose chocolate milk.”

Prior to the meeting, Alejandra Rivera echoed the concern about her kindergarten daughter and her classmates drinking the chocolate milk.

“It will give them a sugar high and then they crash,” she said. “It’s not healthy.”

Yet without a flavored choice, Edel said children might not drink as much milk – or get as many nutrients.

“Is it acceptable that milk consumption in this school decreases by 50 percent?” he said.

Edel said the government feels milk is beneficial. One 8-ounce serving contains 30 percent of the child’s daily calcium, 11 percent of the potassium and 16 percent of the protein, he said.

But some parents say those nutritional facts are biased.

“The dairy board has a huge lobbyist in the government,” parent Susan Bruno said. “We all know that.”

Bruno made handouts available to parents on the downsides of drinking milk.

A few months ago, 45 parents and teachers voted to remove flavored milks from the cafeteria because they had too much sugar. Hearing those concerns, principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon told the cafeteria manager to remove the strawberry and chocolate milks, leaving behind on only the plain milk. But Edel brought back the chocolate milk back when he heard about the change.

He said the National School Lunch program requires the school to offer two different types of milks, although the milks don’t have to be flavored. He said that during March, when the flavored milks disappeared from the cafeteria, a study by the schools’ milk provider showed a 45 percent drop in milk sales compared with the previous six months.

Parent Tanya Caruso said that study doesn’t take into account whether lunch sales as a whole also dropped. Caruso pointed out that the government requires schools to provide milk, but not make sure they actually drink it.

To that end, parent Sara Fahrney said if milk sales drop by 45 percent, the district could use the money it saves by buying less milk on other healthy options in the cafeteria.

In general, Edel cited the cost as a barrier to offering healthier lunches. He urged parents to sign a petition asking the government for an extra $1 in funding per student’s lunch. He pledged to reduce processed entrees in the cafeteria by 25 percent next school year.

Lunch is a hot topic at Avon Elementary, where 77 percent of student qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Their parents may not be able to provide balanced meals at home because of financial constraints,” Rewold-Thuon said. “For a lot of our kids, lunch is their most balanced meal of the day.”

She said parents are so grateful the school district provides the lunches, they might not think it’s their place to speak up about the food.

“Tonight we gave them a voice and that was a really big thing,” Bruno added.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.