A controversial slushie machine installed at O'Keeffe Middle school in Madison is on its way out, after the school's principal joined parents in raising concerns.
"They're taking it out of here tomorrow," says the principal, Kay Enright, adding that this was done at her request. She expects the decision will disappoint and even anger many students, but feels the machine was not a "healthy addition to our menu of choices."
The slushie machines at O'Keeffe was one of six installed this fall at area schools. This included two other middle schools (Sennett and Cherokee) and three Madison high schools (East, West and Memorial).
According to Frank Kelly, director of food services for the Madison school district, the machines have generated only positive reaction, except at O'Keeffe, where parents decried the slushies as offering empty calories.
"They're just pumping kids up with sugar," said parent Jeff Spitzer-Resnick. "Why don't we just hand out sugar pills?"
Parent Martha Pings, a member of Madison Families for Better Nutrition, wrote a letter to school officials lamenting the preponderance of less-than-optimal a la carte food items: "What are we doing to our kids? Why are we setting them up to fail -- academically, and nutritionally?"
Kelly disagrees with such assessments, saying the slushies are "100% juice." A flyer from the manufacturer says the 8-ounce Slush Puppie Plus drinks, which sell for a buck, are "100% fortified juice" with no added sugar or salt; they contain 119 calories and about 30 grams of carbs.
But the ingredients list does include an array of additives, including artificial flavor and coloring.
Appraised that the district is pulling the plug on O'Keeffe's machine, Pings replies, "Just O'Keeffe?" She remains concerned that such offerings are considered acceptable at other schools.