LEBANON — Lebanon schools will soon be offering chocolate milk again at mealtimes.
The district chose to eliminate flavored milk from its menus this year as part of its overall change to comply with federal school-lunch regulations. The regulations don’t ban flavored milk but do tighten restrictions this year on calories and portion sizes and require more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
But members of the Lebanon School Board on Thursday agreed with concerns brought by two parents of students at Cascades Elementary School, and asked district officials to bring chocolate milk back to the cafeteria.
“My kids won’t touch milk unless it’s chocolate,” Chairman Russ McUne said.
Julie Holden and Roxanne Savedra say that’s the case for their kids, too. They brought research touting chocolate milk’s nutritional value, and data showing that regular milk served at Cascades is being wasted by the gallon.
Savedra marked a five-gallon bucket in one-inch increments. For a little over a month, she measured the amount of regular milk tossed by students during lunch.
“We dump an average 11.66 gallons of milk every day, and that’s just lunch. I don’t track breakfast,” she said.
The count came to 186 cartons of milk, compared with the average 260 children who eat a cafeteria lunch, Savedra went on. “That’s 71, almost 72 percent of the cartons that are just thrown away and not drank.”
In contrast, when flavored milk was being served last year, Savedra said, roughly one five-gallon bucket of milk got dumped after each lunch period.
According to district figures, more children were eating cafeteria lunches last year, too: 44,544 lunches were served last September compared with 36,971 this September, said Pam Lessley, the district’s director of nutrition services.
The figures were part of Lessley’s overall report Thursday on the district’s compliance with the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, which took effect this year and revamped public school lunches nationwide.
Like other districts, Lebanon has found itself battling higher costs, particularly for produce; complicated meal plans that can’t be tailored to fit older or hungrier kids; and picky diners who turn up their noses at items such as corn dogs wrapped in whole-grain breading.
Lessley said she thinks young customers will soon be coming back, once they’re used to the new routine, and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture likely will tweak some of the guidelines in light of the outcry from various states.
Some Lebanon schools already bring uneaten breakfast offerings around to classrooms later in the day for any extra-hungry kids. The district will expand this practice to all schools, explore the idea of offering extra salad bar trips to kids who have cleaned their plates — and bring back chocolate milk.
“I’m really pleased with that,” Holden said.