The Question of Juice in Schools
As you know, I have been advocating for the DOE to remove sugary beverages including chocolate milk and juice from its menus. I published an Op-Ed last week in Heated arguing that at this time, where COVID is hitting low-income communities with diet-related disease such as diabetes the hardest, it is our City's duty to make our children's health a priority. Which means a return to scratch cooking, and at least the removal of chocolate milk and juice, low-hanging fruit that contributes to obesity, tooth decay, and diet-related disease such as diabetes.
At last week's Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting, members reviewed a $3 million contract extension with Sun Cup for fruit juice in schools. A majority of PEP members participated in a robust and meaningful discussion with the Chancellor, and Chris Tricarico from the Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) about removing juice from schools and providing a fruit backup to students that is comparable to real fruit.
The PEP encouraged OFNS to continue prioritizing fruit while also recognizing their stated need for a backup to real fruit in order to meet the standards necessary to receive federal reimbursements. In considering the $3 million contract for processed fruit juice, the vote breakdown was as follows: 8 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 abstention. The one-year extension passed because OFNS said that without the contract, they would not be able to get the reimbursements, which amounts to about $500 million annually.
However, PEP members also stated strongly that "we do not expect to see another juice contract when this extension expires and if we do, we will vote NO." In the spirit of partnership, the panel expressed an interest in continuing a dialogue with OFNS about replacing juice, which I hope will continue.
This PEP meeting is a great victory for our children. It demonstrates a robust commitment on the part of PEP to healthy school food. I applaud PEP members for their willingness to meet with me and OFNS and to make this a priority. Thank you in particular to Kathy Park Price for bringing us into this conversation and to the entire PEP for their support and dedication.