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Parents, dieticians react to IPS milk decision

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Indianapolis Public Schools is pulling flavored milk from their breakfast and lunch menus, and it’s drawing mixed reviews from both parents and healthcare professionals.

The IPS board has approved a three month pilot program, which calls for the removal of strawberry and vanilla milk completely. Fat free chocolate milk will only be available for lunch.

As the mother of an IPS students, Terri McIntyre says she’s afraid the change will cause her kids to stop drinking milk.

“The first day (my daughter) came in here she grabbed the white (milk) accidentally,” McIntyre said. “She wouldn’t drink it.”

IPS Commissioner Andrea Roof is the force behind removing flavored milks from the menu.

“I just think we’re trying to make healthier options,” Roof said. “We ban the chocolate milk in the breakfast because kids were pouring chocolate milk over their sugar (cereal). You know, not just are we giving them poor choices, but we’re teaching them poor eating habits.”

School districts in several cities around the country, including Los Angeles, have banned flavored milk.

Pediatrician Dr. William Fisher helped campaign for the change.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Dr. Fisher said. “We know sugar added drinks are a big problem and part of the reason kids are getting so overweight in the U.S.”

Prairie Farms offers the flavored milks available at IPS. They each have twice the sugar as their white varieties.

Though added sugar is a concern for Dietician Martha Rardin, she says she thinks pulling the flavored varieties is a big mistake.

“It’s a great food, it’s nutrient dense, and even if it does have some added sugar, I still think it’s a good thing for our students to be having on a regular basis,” Rardin said.

The concern for Rardin is that removing flavored milk will lead to less milk consumption. The dairy counsel sponsored a study in 49 elementary schools that removed flavored milk, and they reportedly found a 26 percent drop in milk sales and an 11 percent spike in milk thrown away, resulting in 37 percent less milk consumed.

The IPS board will monitor the local impact on milk consumption before making a final decision in the fall. Both sides of the debate will be paying attention.

“What happens is adults assume that you have to bribe the kid with sugar to get them to do something healthy and that’s true for some kids, but I think the majority, if you focus on education, that will win over most of them,” Dr. Fisher said.

“I think the kids will throw more milk away than they drink because at least they drink the chocolate and the strawberry,” McIntyre said. “They don’t drink the white.”