Notes from a Productive Meeting with Office of Food & Nutrition Services
We have a very positive meeting with OFNS yesterday. Here are my notes:
Scratch-Cooking: The pilot will be evaluated in August and has one more year in its pilot stage. They are trying to roll out some of the recipes on the menus in the next year. With regard to moving to the Alternative Menu and getting rid of the regular menu as an interim step to a full scratch-cooked, they said that will take 2-3 years to get there. This is frustrating, and I expressed that this time line was tough to swallow considering we are feeding 900,000 children a day a diet of fast food and the dangers of such highly-processed foods are well documented by research. They acknowledged this time frame was long and said that one way for us to get involved is to be part of a working group where we will focus on menus and can have input on how they develop so that's great. We will be on the School Food Menu Team Working Group with other nonprofit partners so that's great.
Sweetened Milk: The Mayor has apparently called OFNS about the sweetened milk situation and so there may be a decision made to remove it, maybe not, but this is a topic of discussion. We submitted a short research brief (pasted at the end of this) in support of removing it and also discussed keeping it on Fridays as a treat for kids.
Water Jets: Because of our advocacy Chris Tricarico (head of OFNS) has submitted a proposal to pay to install water jets in EVERY SCHOOL. Currently 933 have them but that leaves about 560 without. This is great news!
Sliced Fruit: They are exploring how to integrate slicing fruit into lunch service; also looking at sourcing more pre-sliced fruit to cut down on labor. But the issues are storage space and labor. They are working on it.
Extending Lunch Time: Chris has sent a survey to all principals to get a sense of the lay of the land regarding how early school starts, how early lunch starts and how long kids have to eat. Once he has this data he can begin to prepare a proposal for change.
Wellness Coordinator: I shared our ask to City Council/DOE for a new headcount Wellness Coordinator role to ensure nutrition, gardening and other sustainability programs. They seemed very excited by this idea. They want nutrition ed back in schools too.
Breakfast: Chris asked us all about Breakfast in the Classroom and what we thought. I shared that there was waste, that the hot items did not "travel" well and look very unappealing, and that some of the sugary cereals were off putting for kids. He is interested in parent feedback on breakfast so if you have any, please email him! CTricar@schools.nyc.gov
We feel very pleased with the meeting; it shows a continued interest in listening and bringing parent voices to the table. They are working on a lot and I think our advocacy is pressuring them to perhaps do more and do it sooner. I have invited someone from OFNS to come to a parent meeting to listen to our concerns and to share their advancements and initiatives. More soon and when and where! Here is the research on Chocolate Milk I shared (feel free to use it as you like):
Chocolate Milk Should be Removed from NYC Schools
Limiting added sugars in children’s diet is an important public health target. The 2015 US Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines recommend that added sugars make up no more than 10% of daily calories, and the American Heart Association recently released a scientific statement recommending children and adolescents consume less than 25 grams of added sugars. Reducing intake to these low levels is an extremely ambitious goal, as youth consume an average of 80 grams of day of added sugars.
We believe that flavored milk should not be served in schools for a variety of reasons. Even one serving of flavored milk that meets the Institute of Medicine’s recommended limit of 10 grams of added sugars; it represents 40% of a child’s daily allowance. Our children are also suffering high rates of Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and chronic disease related to obesity. 1 in 5 kindergarten children in NYC is obese.
In addition, research suggests that children learn how sweet a food is supposed to taste during childhood, and early exposure to sweetened water predicts a preference for sweetened water later in life. Therefore, an additional argument against introducing flavored milk in kindergarten and serving it daily in school is that it may reinforce children’s preferences for sweet beverages as a category, and interfere with creating a social norm of drinking water and plain milk.
The NYC Department of Health itself has launched a campaign to remove sweetened milk from schools. They even have a template letter for parents to use to beg their school food managers to remove it. They also include this request on their Healthy Eating section: “Promote Healthy Eating: Start by removing chocolate milk from your school menu to reduce the amount of sugar children consume daily. Serve plain (unflavored) 1% or skim milk instead.” We have two city agencies battling one issue.
For OFNS to serve a food that the DOH is campaigning against makes little (read: no) sense. This year, San Francisco officially banned chocolate milk, starting in elementary and middle schools this fall and expanding to high schools in the spring. Officials tested the idea in five schools over the past school year and found that in two, there was no decrease in the number of milk cartons kids put on their trays, and there was only a slight dip in the other three.
For those who say removal of the sweetened milk may cause nutrient deficit, I point you to a Rudd Center Research on this issue which found acceptance of plain milk increases significantly two years after flavored milk is removed from school cafeterias.
For the above reasons, we believe it is time for New York City to remove sweetened milk from its menus.