Chocolate milk is the devil in the lunch room. Well, that's what it seems like if you've seen the headlines recently. Should chocolate milk be allowed in the school lunch rooms? It helps kids get a serving of dairy...but it has so much sugar depending on the blend! I think each person should decide how they feel based on the facts, but in the scheme of this saga, I'm personally siding with Ellie Krieger RD.

She put it so simply on Twitter today "I think of white milk as a "usually" food and choc milk as a"sometimes" It sure beats soft drinks!" I don't think the chocolate stuff should be touted as a health beverage, but is it better than soda? Yes, and moderation is key. Too much of ANYTHING is bad for you, which is why even vitamin and mineral supplements carry overdose warnings.

Behind this embroiled battle, I think it's time we give the food service directors a little credit for everything they do... especially under the microscope. At the VDA meeting I had dinner with Penny McConnell RD, the director of food and nutrition services at Fairfax county schools. Not only was she amazing to all of the #RD2be's, but she manages the 11th largest district in the country ; An $87 million business that is self supporting and she's not crying over spilled chocolate milk. Here are some of the amazing things Penny has started with her district.

Kudos to Fairfax County School Lunches:

  • Chefs volunteer and demonstrate cooking skills with the kids. Fairfax co. has been doing this for 12 years in partnership with the Metropolitan Chefs Association.
  • Creation and annually updated cookbook for the kids with current nutrition and food safety facts
  • 15 school gardens this past year with the incorporation of garden produce into school menus
  • Fresh fruit & vegetable program: produce is taken into the classroom and used as education material (counting, learning about countries, nutrient content, etc...). Schools must regularly apply to be a part of this.
  • '5 Star' lunch program using graphics to help kids make healthy choices to build a meal
  • Hold student taste parties and nothing goes on the menu without passing the taste panel.
  • Posts every single ingredient in all items served within the cafeterias. This is is not required and several surrounding school systems do not post the data.

Being a food service director for a school system is a difficult business. They must take criticism from all angles and work in ways to keep the business going while balancing nutrition. During the presentation, costs were up %6 for that week, and they were still waiting for a manufacturing revision on some mac and cheese which can take between 18-24 months. So while DC area school lunches are taking in some hard criticism on chocolate milk this week, I'm looking at the bigger picture and the person behind it.

Go Penny!