Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

I mentioned this spring that I was somehow finagled into doing the PTO presidency for Mister Man's (and now Little Miss's) preschool. Yeah, between working three days a week and the two wee ones and everything else, it just slides right in.

One of the responsibilities of the president is actually a fun one. We have a presidents' council of all the PTO presidents in our district (yes, that makes 18 of us with the co-presidents and superintendent and other board reps). The council meets every first and third Wednesday of the month for lunch and to discuss what's going on in the various schools and the issues.

Today was actually our second meeting (and I'm learning what types of food and how much I need to bring when it's my turn), and all I have to say is W.O.W.

The first hour and fifteen minutes were taken up discussing milk in the school cafeterias. In fact, because this was brought up as a fairly contentious issue at the first meeting, one of the school nurses and a local pediatrician who helped to design our wellness policy attended the meeting to educate us.

The basis of the issue is that there is no longer chocolate milk offered as part of the hot lunch.

I'll wait for everyone to put down their pitchforks and torches.

Apparently, the schools used to offer white, strawberry and chocolate milk to students until this year. Unfortunately, no one communicated this, so parents discovered the change when their children came home up in arms about the lack of chocolate milk. Except that apparently at least one of the middle schools still offers strawberry milk and apple juice. Go figure.

Some of the statistics that the pediatrician supplied are really eye-opening. They've taken data from the required physicals for students and compiled information showing that two years ago 26.9% of students are overweight or obese and last year 27.1% were. The national average is 25% for children. This is not a good trend.

According to the pediatrician who spoke, when she sees a child who has had a major weight gain, she reviews a variety of factors and frequently is finding that parents are watching the food and exercise but that beverages are not being paid attention to.

White milk has 11g of sugar per serving. Chocolate milk has 28g. Strawberry milk has even more. And juice, not surprisingly is far worse. The interesting thing that I learned (really, is the above a surprise to anyone?) is that there is something in the cocoa bean -- used for chocolate, duh -- that interferes with the GI tract's ability to absorb calcium and iron. So much of the point of drinking milk is wasted when it's chocolate. That I had never heard before.

The school district strongly feels that it's important to model good nutrition for the one meal a day that they have the children. And that now means no chocolate milk. I do sort of get it. Yeah, kids will want to drink chocolate milk but if the school doesn't offer it and consistently doesn't offer it and gives white milk, eventually the children will learn to drink white milk, right?

OK, unless you're Mister Man who hates white milk. But now I'm reevaluating my adding of Ovaltine to his milk and trying to figure out how to wean him onto white milk (fortunately, I've always used just a bit).

Needless to say, there was only one mom who was in support of the chocolate milk ban.

The other PTO presidents just went off on the poor pediatrician who I'm pretty sure will never address the council again, nor will she accept any of these parents' kids as patients.

* Kids are throwing away the milk
* Kids are drinking apple juice in some places
* The white milk at school tastes funny compared to milk from a jug
* It isn't organic and we have students going through puberty in first grade so milk shouldn't be served at all
* The milk is sitting out and isn't cold enough

We spent an hour and fifteen minutes discussing the chocolate milk uprising. Seriously. An hour and fifteen minutes.

On the plus side, if this is the biggest problem that parents and PTOs have right now, life is pretty good.

On the downside, that meant I had no time to talk to the PTOs about having some of them sponsor classrooms in our building to bring more books into them. The preschool PTO's entire budget is generally about 5-15% of the elementary, middle and high school's individual fundraisers. It's pretty sad, but we're working on it. Lucky for us, they've been generous in the past, including buying six adaptive bikes two years ago.

But hey, the next time you think your life is rough, just remember that in schools in my area, chocolate milk is verboten.


Karen September 18, 2008 at 12:24 AM  

Holy high heavens, that is just plain ridiculous. Give them chocolate milk and make the parents responsible for the health of their children at home.

Cookie September 18, 2008 at 11:19 AM  

Who woulda thunk milk could be so controversial?!

Angie's Spot September 18, 2008 at 6:38 PM  

Wow, I had no idea that chocolate milk could be such a hot topic. My hat off to you for taking on PTO president. Should we begin addressing you as Madame President? LOL!

Michelle September 18, 2008 at 8:20 PM  

Karen - Amen! But we have to be the role models. If it doesn't start in the schools, how EVER will the parents figure it out?

Cookie - Umm so not me. In fact, not having lunch served at the early learning center, the whole thing cracked me up.

Angie - Sure, I'll take the title ;) Like I said when I first agreed to do this back in May, I'm doing it because no one else can or will and this school can't afford to have the PTO dissolve.

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