Parents voice concerns over product served as fruit in Denver school

School eliminates sugary snack served as fruit

DENVER -- A sugary snack once served as a breakfast fruit at a Denver Public School is now gone thanks to a group of parents and an organization dedicated to helping Latino families cut out sugar.

Tracy Kay with Westwood Unidos, an organization based in Southwest Denver, said parents first came to them addressing concerns surrounding sour-flavored raisins.

Raisels come in different flavors like “Watermelon Shock” and contain up to 27 grams of sugar, the equivalent of seven teaspoons worth of sugar.

“When parents discovered that they were getting Raisels they were really pretty upset,” said Kay.

Kay said the sugar-coated raisins were being served with a box of fruit juice and Graham crackers to students at Munroe Elementary for their in-classroom breakfast program.

“You know lots of kids love ice cream," she said, “but we don’t give kids ice cream every single day.”

Westwood is a neighborhood in Southeast Denver made up of mainly Latino families.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says more than half of Hispanic kindergarten children experience tooth decay, a significantly higher number than children of other races.

“The sugary drink industry targets the Latino community with their advertising and marketing,” said Wyatt Hornsby, with Delta Dental, a nonprofit organization that’s now working with Westwood Unidos to help families in the area cut down on sugar and drink more water.

With the help of Westwood Unidos, a group of parents expressed their concerns regarding Raisels to staff at Munroe Elementary and at Denver Public Schools.

Theresa Pena, an outreach coordinator at DPS, says as of this school year, they’re no longer serving Raisels at any school in the district.  

“Every year we’re looking at products,” she said, “and the best school meals is the meal they’ll eat.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not regulate the amount of sugar schools serve, they only limit how many calories each meal can have.

That being said, Pena said the schools can serve Raisels as a fruit, however, as in this case, they’re willing to work with parents and address their concerns.

For Kay and Westwood Unidos, this is just the first step in helping families in the area take control of what their children are eating in and out of home.

“When parents start to come up and say, ‘yeah we want something different for our children,"” she said, “then they'll take action.” 

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