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New Haven students: Give us chocolate milk

New Haven Register logo New Haven Register 8/5/2019 By Brian Zahn
a group of people standing around a table: New Haven Food Service Department Cafeteria workers of local 217 paste labels, fold letters, and stuff 20k envelopes of school lunch applications at NHPS Central Kitchen at 75 Barnes Ave. on Thursday. © Hearst Connecticut Media File Photo

New Haven Food Service Department Cafeteria workers of local 217 paste labels, fold letters, and stuff 20k envelopes of school lunch applications at NHPS Central Kitchen at 75 Barnes Ave. on Thursday.

NEW HAVEN — Students in the city say their resolve is strong to make their bones even stronger: they just wish to do it with sweeter flavors.

Board of Education student member Nico Rivera said one thing he has heard come up several times when speaking to students is that they want chocolate and strawberry milk added to school cafeterias. Rivera said the flavored milk is covered under federal guidelines, and adding them to schools would give students more incentive to drink milk.

“We’re wasting milk all the time,” he said. “The city spends on milk, then it sits in a cooler past its expiration date and it spoils.”

Darnell Goldson, president of the Board of Education, attested that when he visits schools and speaks to students, chocolate milk is often one of their top requests.

“Though I have heard from many students that this is an important issue for them, and they would like to see flavored milk returned to the menu, I have not heard from parents nor health experts,” Goldson said. “I do hope that the (food policy) task force will take up the issue and report back to the board with a recommendation.

Gail Cairns-Sharry, the district’s food services director, said she’s torn “50/50” on the issue.

“I see both sides,” she said. “We have a lot of parents who don’t want that added sugar.”

Late last year, federal guidelines on school lunches were rolled back as part of the Trump administrations deregulation goals, allowing for low-fat chocolate milk as well as more refined grains.

The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts in public schools and other institutions, according to the Associated Press. Last year, it served an estimated 30 million children.

According to the Dairy Council of California, a carton of chocolate milk ordinarily has eight to 12 grams of added sugar, nearly doubling the sugar content found naturally in milk.

Rivera said that, health concerns aside, adding flavored milks to cafeterias is a simple matter of giving students what they want. He said he relaxed his initial lobbying efforts when more pressing issues in the schools arose, but he hasn’t forgotten that his constituents — students — are asking for chocolate milk. If ever there were a time to make the change, he said, it would be before school starts up again later this month.

Even if the schools can’t add flavored milks, he said, he believes all students deserve a free water bottle so they can hydrate in and out of school.

brian.zahn@hearstmediact.com

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