Got milk controversy, Vail Valley? |

Got milk controversy, Vail Valley?

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyIsabella Borski, 7, right, takes a sip of her unflavored milk during lunch break Wednesday at Avon Elementary School in Avon.

AVON – Call it the great milk debate.

A few months back, 45 parents and teachers from Avon Elementary voted to oust flavored milks from the school cafeteria. They wanted to outlaw strawberry and chocolate milks – products they say pack too much sugar.

“Why do my kids need extra calories and sugar?” said Susan Bruno, president of the Parent Teacher Association and parent of two children at Avon Elementary. “It’s just not necessary.”

Hearing those concerns, Avon Elementary Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon said she told the cafeteria manager to remove the flavored milks. But Ray Edel, director of nutritional services, brought back the chocolate milk when he heard about the change. He’s since been working with parents to solve the milk dilemma.

“I think it’s an interesting debate on what is the best way to go with that,” he said. “There are studies out that consumption of milk can go down as much as 60 percent (if flavored milks are removed).”

“What’s more beneficial: to drink flavored milk or drink no milk?”

Edel plans to attend a Monday P.T.A. meeting. There, parents plan to circulate a petition seeking to ban the chocolate milk.

Within the school, people are divided philosophically, Rewold-Thuon said.

“Some would rather kids have chocolate milk than not drink their milk,” she said. “Others say ‘You don’t really need milk if you’re getting calcium in other ways, so why have all that sugar?”

Fifth-graders at the school plan an experiment on how much chocolate versus plain students really drink. At the end of lunch, students will pour their remaining milk into tubs. Then they’ll measure how much of each type of milk goes to waste.

“What we’ve seen from the kids is they take the chocolate milk but they don’t necessarily finish it,” Rewold-Thuon said.

The National School Lunch program requires schools to offer two different types of milk, Edel said. However, those milks don’t have to be flavored, he said. They could include two different plain milks with different percentages of fat, Edel said.

Avon’s fifth-graders are following in the footsteps of farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. They may not be fighting for higher wages or union rights, but they came darn close to boycotting lunch recently.

To make it easier for students to relate to a lesson on Chavez, fifth-grade teacher Ines Barcenas ask them: “What’s something that affects you that you could change peacefully?”

Students picked school lunches.

“They wanted to just jump in and do a boycott, but we wanted to show them to first talk to the people in charge and see if they can make any changes,” Barcenas said.

So fifth-graders wrote letters. They petitioned everyone from Edel to Sen. Mark Udall to first lady Michelle Obama, putting their demands for healthier lunches on the page.

Students pushed for more fresh foods, higher quality meats and enough federal funding to boost the cost of each lunch from $2.54 to $3.54.

“We would like to see most of the processed and canned foods eliminated,” fifth-grader Colby Lange said. “We would like to see more salad bar days, more options.”

In a meeting with students this week, Edel agreed to reduce the amount of processed entrees at Avon Elementary by 25 percent next school year. He also took notes on changes students want to see at the salad bar.

Edel said he applied to the state Department of Education for a $29,000 grant for fresh fruits and vegetables at Avon Elementary.

Inside a fifth-grade classroom Wednesday, students considered which foods they would want the grant to cover.

“Oranges,” one student offered.

“Melons!” another cried.

And the list went on…”smoothies” “corn,” “I love celery!”

Students say they’re pleased school officials met some of their demands. However, the kids plan to hold the cafeteria accountable – even once they’ve moved on to Berry Creek Middle School.

“If we don’t see what we want or that the lunch is actually healthier, we will proceed with a boycott,” 10-year-old Deimi Bustillos said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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