The ongoing effort to improve nutrition and access to good-for-you food and beverage choices for kids in schools just got a healthy boost. Jamba Juice Company, with nutrition guidance from National Dairy Council, today announced a new fruit and dairy beverage for K-12 schools.

The healthy smoothie, naturally sweetened with fruit and fruit juice, combines the nutrient-rich benefits of fat-free milk with real fruit. The beverage will be unveiled this week at the School Nutrition Association conference in Denver.

School nutrition professionals, the USDA, and parent/teacher groups have been working to improve the nutrition in school meals, but also have wrestled with cost considerations and finding options kids will actually consume.

“This is an important step in the right direction,” says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, a nutrition and food author and member of the Jamba Healthy Living Council. “This project moves us closer towards the goal of providing schools with nutritious food and beverage solutions at a reasonable cost per-serving.

“Kids should love the natural sweetness of this healthy smoothie. It’s made with nutrient-rich real fruit and fat-free milk that not only tastes great, but also helps address the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and can be offered as an a la carte item at school meal.”

Jamba is entering the second year of its JambaGO initiative, a program aimed at bringing better nutrition to kids with full fruit and vegetable servings in smoothie beverages.

“We believe the program needed a dairy component to reach its full potential as a relevant healthy option in school foodservice programs,” says Julie Washington, chief brand officer, Jamba Juice Company. “Jamba reached out to National Dairy Council and Dairy Research Institute, founded by America’s dairy farmers, for help with dairy nutrition expertise and in formulating a new dairy and fruit drink. They responded with a dedicated team of nutrition and product development experts.”

JambaGO smoothies are being served in about 100 schools around the nation and the company expects that number to grow to between 400-500 installations by year-end.

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, sodas, energy, and sports drinks are a top source of added sugars in the American diet. Public health officials are concerned about the steady rise of empty calories consumed by young people and are seeking ways to curb the intake of excess calories to address obesity and the health of the nation.

“Dairy farmers and dairy companies want to help students get the benefits of essential nutrients found in products made from fat-free milk, such as calcium, potassium and protein,” says Jean Ragalie, RD, president, National Dairy Council. “Adding dairy to the fruit-based JambaGO smoothie offerings demonstrates our continued commitment to innovation to develop healthy food and beverage choices that children will enjoy.”

Schools continue to be a vital link in providing better nutrition for kids.

“The current JambaGO program has been a huge success for us,” says Ken Llewellyn, food service director and nutrition specialist for the Crane School District, Crane, Missouri. “We like it because we’re offering kids beverages that deliver the nutrient benefits of real fruit, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The new option coming with real fruit and fat-free milk will be a great addition. The JambaGO program has helped us boost student involvement in our breakfast program by over 10 percent and as a result we are now experiencing 72 percent participation.”

The new fat-free dairy and fruit beverage is available in berry and peach flavors and is expected to be available to schools starting in September 2012.

Made with fat-free milk blended with fruit juices and apple, strawberry, and blueberry fruits, the Berry Fruit Smoothie contains one serving of fruit and one-half serving of fat-free dairy per eight fluid ounces, is a fat-free, cholesterol free, low sodium food, and is formulated to be a good source of protein, potassium, and phosphorus and an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C.

The Peach Fruit Smoothie is made with fat-free dairy blended with fruit juices and peach fruits. It contains one serving of fruit and one-half serving of fat-free dairy per eight fluid ounces and is fat-free, cholesterol free, and low sodium food. It is formulated to be a good source of protein, potassium, vitamin C, and phosphorous, and an excellent source of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and calcium.

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