Friday, December 17, 2010

New Fla. agriculture chief wants to collaborate with school board on lunch improvements

Florida's recently elected agriculture commissioner says he wants to play a key role in the state Board of Education's plans to include school nutrition. "The board was supposed to discuss cutting back on sugary drinks, including chocolate milk, in schools next week — a proposal that has spurred complaints from the dairy industry and school districts," Denise-Marie Balona of The Orlando Sentinel reports on the Sentinel School Zone blog. But Ag commissioner-elect Adam Putnam "sent a letter recently asking board members to put off that debate until he takes office and the state Department of Agriculture can help the state Department of Education take a closer look at the overall issue of foods offered on campus," Balona writes.

The Agriculture department's job is usually to assist farmers in making sure food is safe, not determining what foods are served in school cafeterias, Balona writes. Putnam says he wants in on the conversation because he wants to make sure children eat healthier meals. "He said it has nothing to do with protecting the dairy industry, which contributed thousands of dollars to his election campaign and stands to lose a lot of money if the state ditches flavored milk," Balona writes. Putnam explained, "The letter was designed to be a let’s-hit-the-pause button and let’s begin a new type of conversation and an unprecedented collaboration between the source of our food [farmers] and one of the biggest providers of children’s food – that being the school system." (Read more)

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