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Real Food for Kids - Montgomery  


2013 Priorities

In December of 2012, we went through a democratic process to determine the priorities of our membership using a Google Poll and member voting. The top five priorities for our organization were established at that time. Once several of those priorities have been accomplished, we will reinitiate this process and determine our next set of priorities.We'd like to hear from you about your priorities - please e-mail us at with your ideas and to join our mailing list so that you can be part of the next Google Poll.

Status of 2013 Priorities - Updated April 23, 2014

Priority Where things stand now What we know from MCPS thus far What our members can do

Improving communications with parents on options for children's lunch accounts

MCPS elementary school menus now contain a blurb mentioning the existence a la carte items and the possibility of limiting these purchases by contacting your cafeteria manager, as does the a la carte section of the MCPS DFNS web site. Information on blocking your child's account was also sent out in the packet sent to parents of elementary school children for fall 2013. Lindsey testified to the Board of Education on 10/8/13 to request greater transparency. As of January 2017, MCPS now has interactive menus which include ingredients on their main dishes.

Ms. Caplon agreed to suggest to principals to send home a list of the a la carte and vending items available at their schools and information on blocking your child's account for a la carte at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. We do not know if this request was made.

Contact your school cafeteria if you seek to block a la carte food purchases for your child. You can also request a printout of all foods your child has purchased at any time from your cafeteria manager. It may also be available through MyLunchMoney online. Share information about blocking a la carte food purchases on your school listserv and with other parents you know. Urge your principal to send out a list of a la carte and vending items available at your school to parents.

Working to remove the practice of rewarding children with food and also ensuring the availability of free water in cafeterias (required by MCPS wellness policies and federal regulations, respectively)

While rewarding children with food is discouraged in official MCPS policy, it is not forbidden and is still very prevalent.

Many cafeterias only offer water via a drinking fountain, which in some cases is only in the hall adjacent to the cafeteria. Children are often required to raise their hands and be recognized to get water.


This is apparently in compliance with federal and state regulations, according to the reading by MCPS and the State Department of Education.

Let your teacher know of the wellness policy (see page 4, section III. D. 2. a.) and encourage the use of rewards other than food.

Survey your cafeteria and discuss with your cafeteria manager the possibility of putting a large water container out for children to use to refill water bottles. PTAs may provide funding for this. Ask teachers to encourage the use of refillable water bottles.

Improving the health value of competitive foods

A majority of the competitive foods sold in accordance with the MCPS wellness policy (a la carte and vending) have many dangerous additives and are of minimal nutritional value.

There are also vending machines containing foods not approved under the MCPS wellness policy, such as soda and candy. These machines were turned on at the end of the school day in 2012-2013. Due to our advocacy, the Superintendent has directed Royalle, the vending company, to delay turning on these machines until 30 minutes after the end of the school day.

Karen testified to the Board of Education on 10/8/13 regarding unhealthy a la carte and vending items.


We met with Ms. Caplon and Mr. Baddour of Royalle on Aug. 9. We reviewed the products they had selected for the trial at Takoma Park Middle School (we asked for products that are majority whole grain, are low in sugar and/or high in fiber and do not contain Red 40 colorant; Yellow 5 & 6 colorant; Blue colorant; BHA/BHT/TBHQ; MSG/autolyzed yeast; HFCS; Potassium Bromate; Sodium Benzoate, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Cyclamates, Saccharin and Sucralose or vanillin). We liked the majority of the products that they suggested but asked that they not include some with harmful additives. We also asked that ice cream bars be limited to one day a week and the flavors of Sidekicks (frozen juice) that contain food dyes not be sold. On 8/29 Ms. Caplon said her team will test the flavor of Sidekicks that has no dyes. We are awaiting the final product list and anticipate it will include ice cream and Sidekicks with dyes at least until product testing is complete. Success for the trial will be based on volume of sales relative to last year from the months of Oct. - Dec. 2013. If it is successful, it will be expanded to other schools. As of early December, 2013, we know that a la carte and vending sales at Takoma Park Middle School are about 15% lower than last year. MCPS has indicated that they will continue to look for products that meet our criteria and sell as well as the products we wish to replace.

Survey your own school's competitive food items. Ask your principal to remove unhealthy items or competitive foods entirely.

Getting schools to eliminate food/snack items that contain harmful ingredients

RFKM members identified artificial colors, artificial flavorings, preservatives and other chemical additives that have earned a 'caution' or 'avoid' rating from the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) contained in concessions snacks sold in schools.

One product, Fruit Wave H2O was not in compliance with the guidelines due to a high calorie count. It has been removed due to our requests in late 2012 and early 2013. It has been reformulated with Stevia and will be sold again in 2013-2014. In addition, Fruit by the Foot has been removed from vending machines containing approved products due to non-compliance with the guidelines.

As of January, 2014, MCPS no longer serves "strawberry" milk, which contains harmful ingredients, including FD&C red dye #40.

We sent a request on May 28, 2013 to Ms. Caplon on the issue of removing additives in all the foods sold in MCPS.

MCPS believes flavored milk helps encourage kids to consume calcium; this does not appear to be a shared priority.


Ask your principal to remove a la carte and vending selections that contain artificial colors and flavors.

Getting rid of flavored milks

RFKM requested that strawberry milk no longer be sold or be sold no more than once a week and to place the white milk in front of flavored milk in all cafeterias. We also asked whether flavored milks could be eliminated just from breakfast or whether parents could request that "white milk only" be put on their child's account.

Karen testified to the Board of Education on 10/8/13 regarding the strawberry milk.

As of January 2014, MCPS will no longer serve strawberry milk! Ms. Caplon has also agreed to request that the current dairy reduce the sugar in the chocolate milk to 18 grams total (so only 6 grams added).

While the central office will not ask individual schools to put a "white milk only" message on students' accounts, some individual cafeteria managers are willing to do this.

MCPS apparently did a trial of the "Nudge" program to encourage healthier choices based on food placement and display, did not see big results and therefore discontinued it. Ms. Caplon agreed to share information on this trial with us as of April, 2013 but we still have no further information on it.

Ask your cafeteria manager to place white milk in front of chocolate milk.

Ask if your cafeteria manager will allow parents to put "white milk only" on their child's lunch account and if so, communicate that information with other parents.

Teach your kids about the sugar in flavored milk and encourage them to consume plain milk.

Improving the nutrient content of school meals

There are books with ingredient lists for all the products sold in MCPS available at the offices of Food and Nutrition Services. We have scans of the ingredient lists from these books.

We have PDF files on a large portion of the foods sold in MCPS. We will be posting them to our web site.


Ensuring MCPS is in compliance with their own wellness policy.

It was determined that MCPS was out of compliance with their own wellness policy that "Vending machine fronts will promote activity or consumption of approved beverages" due to depiction of unapproved products such as Coke and Pepsi on vending machines.

At our prompting, this was brought to the attention of MCPS by County Councilmember George Leventhal during a Health and Human Services Committee meeting for Montgomery County on 10/10/13. On 11/13/13, Marla Caplon indicated that she had already spoken with Royalle, the vending company, to correct the situation.

Let us know if you see a change in the vending machine fronts at your school to bring them into compliance with MCPS policy.

2014 Priorities and Progress
2015 Priorities and Progress
2016 Priorities and Progress
2017 Priorities and Progress
2018 Priorities and Progress




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