A workshop in Worthington, Minn., allowed foodservice professionals to get cozy with their food supply.
Just because students have the summer off, doesn’t mean those that work in the schools do. For two days in July, eight school foodservice managers sat amongst a group of 50 that included nutrition specialists, cooks and retirement community directors for the “Connecting With Your Food: Beef/Dairy Culinary Workshop” in Worthington, Minn. The workshop, sponsored by the Minnesota Beef Council and Midwest Dairy Association allowed attending foodservice professionals to earn continuing education units to maintain their various certifications.
The first day was highlighted by tours of two cattle operations. The first was BLAC-X Farms in Garretson, S.D., an operation that finish-feeds about 4,500 beef cattle per year. Jay and Peter Bakken, third-generation farmers, operate the farm.
The second was Newalta Dairy in Pipestone, Minn., operated by John and Belinda Vander Wal, natives of the Netherlands who moved initially to Canada to start a dairy farm, which they did, but sold and moved to Pipestone to start another larger operation. They own about 1,000 cows and milk about 25,000 pounds daily.
Having a workshop for dietary managers and foodservice directors—those responsible for the meals of a large audience—is a great way to spread information about how the nation’s food is produced, said Colleen Zenk, director of nutrition and consumer information for the Minnesota Beef Council and the workshop’s organizer. “People are getting further away from their food,” she said, and the workshop is one way to reach them. “We need facts that are science based.”
The workshop, in its first year, will be held concurrently with the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association annual Summer Tour & Trade Show, where tours of beef facilities can be easily coordinated, Zenk said.
“This is a great way to bridge the gap between us, the producers, and you out there (in foodservice),” said John Schafer, co-owner of Schafer Herefords in Buffalo Lake, Minn., and a Cattlemen’s and national Beef Board member, to the audience.
Elaine Deutchman, foodservice director for Windom schools and a certified dietary manager, looked at the workshop to explore menu options for the schools. “We’re trying to expand that a bit,” she said. The workshop in its second day focused on that topic. Deutchman had another interest: her family also runs an Angus beef operation, and she appreciates the MN Beef Council having events to…well, promote beef, which was another obvious goal of the workshop.
Co-sponsoring the event was the Midwest Dairy Association, and Carolyn Hudson, the association’s health and wellness manager, delivered a memorable presentation on the second day of the workshop.
Prompting much discussion during her presentation was the Minneapolis school district’s decision in May to drop chocolate milk from its lunch menus. Rosemary Dederichs, Minneapolis schools’ director of nutrition services, told the Star Tribune that month that the decision was made to remove sugar and additional calories from school meals, and that “consuming chocolate milk every day can train a child’s palate toward sweetened foods.”
As one might guess, the Midwest Dairy Association, which has a membership of about 11,000 dairy farms, opposed the decision. But the association is not without support, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The primary argument to keep chocolate milk on the menu is that it remains an easy way for children to get nine nutrients (calcium; protein; vitamins A, D, and B12; potassium; riboflavin; niacin and phosphorus) and the cost of 20 to 40 additional calories (depending on the brand of chocolate milk) compared to regular low-fat milk is low.
The additional sugar in the chocolate milk offered by schools constitutes only 3 percent of added sugars to a child’s diet, explained Hudson, who is also a registered dietician and president-elect of the Minnesota Dietetic Association. “(Further), flavored milks are less than 2 percent of sugars in the average teen diet—sodas are more than 50 percent,” she said.
When flavored milk is removed from schools, surveys show that it often doesn’t get replaced with regular milk at school, or any milk at home. Students simply toss the white milk in the trash, and students’ overall milk consumption outside of school drops 35 percent. “Five schools (in the study) listed a drop of more than 50 percent,” Hudson said.
Further, Hudson explained, to add back the nutrients lost by removing chocolate milk, more foods are needed, which adds more overall calories. “We have the support of pediatric associations,” Hudson said. “We’re giving up nine essential nutrients for 20 calories. I’m a registered dietician. It makes no sense to me.”
It was an important topic to discuss, because many other school districts are considering similar measures—or have done it already. “We tried it last year,” said Marge Freeburg, the foodservice director for Murray County Schools, adding that as a result of removing chocolate milk, “kids weren’t drinking milk. They were tossing the white milk (in the garbage).”
With the cafeteria reality combined with the information she collected at the workshop, Freeburg said she “could present more facts to the (district’s) Wellness Committee” and hopefully convince them to bring back flavored milk.
The presentation went far beyond flavored milk controversies, however. Hudson dove into lactose intolerance, defining what it is. (A brief summary: There are varying degrees of lactose sensitivity, triggered by the body’s inability to process lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Often there are no symptoms to lactose sensitivity, but for those with full-blown intolerance, there can be gastrointestinal disturbances. There is a major difference between lactose intolerance and a milk allergy: an allergy to milk is a reaction to milk protein, triggered by the body’s immune system. Managing lactose intolerance includes introducing dairy slowly to the diet to opting for lactose-free products.)
Hudson also led the audience through the recent upgrade of the USDA dietary guidelines and the new symbol: Gone is the pyramid, now it’s the plate.
“I got a lot out of it,” Freeburg said. “I was searching for menu ideas, and didn’t know that they (the Beef Council and MDA) had the resources for foodservice.”
Workshops that counted as Continuing Education Units for attendees included:
- “Myths and Facts about Beef and Dairy Production,” by veterinarian Sara Barber who specializes in dairy and dairy calf farms and works at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington. Barber detailed the raising and maintenance of livestock, including the use of vaccinations and hormones.
- Dr. Leo Timms, associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University, presented “Dairy Farming Practices—Nutrition and Safety.” Timms broke down labels (for example, “natural” versus “organic”) and described some of the controversy with the rBST hormone, which is naturally occurring in cattle, but is also used as a supplement to increase production from dairy cows. (Regarding rBST, Timms summarized that there is no scientific evidence that increasing the hormone in dairy cattle impacts the milk or the people who consume it.)
- John Hagerla, VP of global marketing services for PM Beef, “Understanding and marketing to the Consumer.”
- “The Culinary Connection with Beef: Beef for Breakfast,” presented by Shenoa French, associate director of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
– Mike Mitchelson