Yogurt in school lunch gets mixed reviews

March 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Carrie White would rather see a McDonald's hamburger than a cup of yogurt on the lunch menu at Clear Spring High School.

She turns up her nose at the mention of yogurt, which recently was approved as a replacement for meat at schools across the country.

"It makes me want to barf," says the ninth-grade student.

But for some other area students, yogurt is an appealing substitute for meatier options such as hamburgers, cheese steak sandwiches and chicken patties.


"That'd be cool," said Jesse Caffarelli, a fifth-grader at Maugansville Elementary School. "My parents buy it for themselves, but I eat it."

Many Tri-State area students already can buy yogurt a la carte in school cafeterias.

Because it is low in fat and high in protein, yogurt - along with cheese, beans, eggs and peanut butter - can be substituted for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although that ruling has upset the cattle industry, local dairy farmers should be pleased, said Don Schwartz, Washington County agricultural extension agent.

Dairy cows within a 50-mile radius of Hagerstown produce about 1 million gallons of milk every day, he said.

The dairy industry brings in $40 million a year, representing two-thirds of the county's agricultural receipts, he said.

Still, Schwartz and Tri-State area food service directors worry that if the yogurt offered in schools is plain instead of the varieties with fruit or other flavorings, it won't be tempting enough to lure students away from traditional foods.

"Nutritionally, it looks good. As a practicality, it has its limitations," Schwartz said.

On the other hand, flavored yogurts are high in sugar and seem more like dessert, he said.

"I'm sure there's a market. I do not see it replacing pizza," said Donald Trumble, Washington County's food and nutrition services director.

Yogurt didn't prove to be that popular when it was offered at a few area high schools, so the idea was scrapped, he said.

On the menu, yogurt could be coupled with a salad and a fruit cup to complete a nice, light meal, suggested Trumble and Carol Bricker, food services director for Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) School District.

"I just can't see it as a main dish," she said.

Most food service directors said they thought yogurt would be more popular at the high schools.

But an informal survey of students showed more acceptance among elementary school students.

"It's good for you," said Brittany Sawicki, another fifth-grader at Maugansville Elementary.

"It tastes, like, fruitish," said her friend Ashley Ernst, 10.

Carolyn Barnett, food service supervisor in Jefferson County, W.Va., was surprised, but then thought about her own two small children.

"What they learn to eat when they're small, they'll keep eating," she said.

In Frederick County, Md., where less than 1 percent of the students are vegetarians, elementary students who don't eat meat can get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day, said Cheri Dattoli, food services director for Frederick County Public Schools.

Yogurt will give them another choice, she said.

Central Fulton (Pa.) School District sells about a dozen cups of yogurt a week, said Faye Butts, food service supervisor for the school district of about 1,200 students.

Most of the yogurt eaters are high school girls, she said.

"Anything we can do to improve the health of the student, I'm all for it," said Fred Goodhand, food service supervisor for Morgan County (W.Va.) schools.

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