A carton a day

Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 9:05pm

Metro Nashville Public Schools is years away from offering tofu, lentils and antioxidant-loaded green tea to on cafeteria menus. For now, then, Goldenrod’s reduced-sugar and 1 percent chocolate milk will suffice as an upgrade meant to cut into the childhood obesity epidemic. 

At the beginning of 2011, MNPS officials — after requests from parents and a successful taste test at J.T. Moore Middle School — added the chocolate milk to district cafeteria menus. Since the switch, the young scholars have responded favorably. 

“One student said she preferred this milk to the other, which was too sweet,” said Fred Carr, the schools’ chief operating officer. 

Not that Goldenrod is as healthy as broccoli, but it does offer nutrients and contains only 21 grams of sugar, compared with the 25 grams found in the Purity chocolate milk that public school cafeterias previously served. 

Metro schools also offer skim milk, sweet acidophilus, unflavored 1 percent milk, and strawberry milk, along with various juices and water. But Goldenrod chocolate milk represents 70 percent of all milk sales. 

Carr said a group of parents approached Metro about a year ago hoping the system’s cafeterias could meet nutritional standards established by the Institute of Medicine. 

“The parents’ stated goal was the removal of flavored milk from all schools,” Carr said, adding that a diverse student body requires a variety of choices. Some Hispanic students, for example, prefer strawberry-flavored milk. 

“Flavored milk removal is a pretty good stretch from where we are now,” he said, adding that the system cannot afford to offer pricey almond, rice or soy milks.  

Deborah Walker, coordinator of the MNPS Food Services Department, said the sugar reduction per school year is equivalent to about 10,500 five-pound bags of sugar.

“When looking at 3,500 calories per pound, one carton a day with the reduction of sugar prevents a 1-pound weight gain per student during the school year,” she said.

Carr said he finds the Goldenrod chocolate milk flavorful but added with a chuckle, “My preference is buttermilk, so I’m not sure I’m the best taste test source.”