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Stoughton Business Hopes its Snack Pops into K-12 Schools

Ari Taube's Mini Pops are on the approved list for the new school nutrition standards which went into effect August 1, 2012.

Massachusetts K-12 schools might take the state's new school nutrition standards, which went into effect on August 1, with an air popped grain of sorghum.

Made by Sharon resident Ari Taube right here in Stoughton on Tosca Drive.

Taube's Mini Pops, a healthier alternative to popcorn, are on the Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages List available for schools to comply with the healthier Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards. 

The new rules apply to all competitive foods and beverages "sold or provided in public schools during the school day" and "from 30 minutes before the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after the school day ends. Foods and beverages sold in vending machines must meet the standards at all times," state officials told school officials in a Nov. 15, 2011 memo. The new rules don’t affect "school meals programs, which follow USDA national guidelines," the memo says.

Taube says he is working with two distributors that will be presenting Mini Pops to Massachusetts school food service directors.

"I want as many Massachusetts schools as I possibly can to start offering Mini Pops in their school system, either in the lunch program or a snack program or a la carte," he says.

Compared to popcorn, Mini Pops has a "higher protein count. It's higher in calcium. Pound for pound, it has fewer calories and less fat," says Taube, the company's president.

The idea for Mini Pops came to Taube while he was watching an episode of "Bizarre Foods" on the Travel Channel in 2008. He had been laid off from his job as a financial planner for a financial company, and was considering starting a business.

In the episode, the featured speaker was in Ethiopia and "he was eating popped sorghum grains," Taube says.

"It’s actually quite common in places like Africa, and India as well," he says.

"But, nobody's ever really done it here in the United States. Nobody's ever really had the inclination, because sorghum isn’t grown in order to pop. Popcorn is grown in conditions so that it pops very well and efficiently. Sorghum has many different varieties, most of which don't pop very well. So, the research and development to find the right variety to pop was a challenge."

Taube says the show inspired him to try popping some in his kitchen.

"It tastes like popcorn, and it's crunchy and nutritious," he says.

And when he searched nationwide – "because I wanted to eat more of it" – no stores said they carried popped sorghum grain.

An idea to do it himself popped into his head.

Taube says he incorporated Mini Pops in September 2009, spent 18 months on research and development, and began offering bags of samples in August of 2010.

This gluten free, corn free, organic product is now available in a variety of flavors from plain to sea salt to white cheddar to "hot n' chilly chili." There are eight flavors in all, according to the company's website. A serving of most flavors of Mini Pops (1 ounce) is 90 or 100 calories and 1 gram of fat.

Organic farms in Texas and Kansas supply his sorghum grain, he says.

"I'm shipping out 3,000 bags of Mini Pops to the Nebraska Sorghum Board because these sorghum organizations now go to trade shows, and they're bringing Mini Pops with them to show what else we can do with sorghum," Taube says.

Learn more about Mini Pops by checking out the video in the media gallery and by clicking on this link.

linda jenkins August 02, 2012 at 10:25 AM
Get free samples of Emergen-C vitamin drink mix from "Official Samples" Request it and enjoy free samples of these vitamin drink mixes.
Fiscal Conservative August 02, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Is it true that Mayor Bloomberg, from NYC, is going to run for Massachusetts Governor next time around? Regulating everything a person does is his specialty!!! Regulating what students eat between 9 - 3 isn't going to help. What will help is getting the kids outside every day possible for exercise. The policy of keeping in for recess once the temp (or wind chill hits 32 degrees) is totally foolish. Teachers give the answer that its for the kids well being, thats nonsense!!! Its because THEY don't want to go out and supervise. My daughter, lives in Minnesota (where it's far colder) and students go out for recess until the temperature hits 0 degrees. Students bring in Snowsuits, Boots, Gloves and Hats. They are allowed to play in the snow, Sled, etc. Those that aren't properly dressed stay on areas that are cleared. This happens very infrequently. Students are healthier, leaner, etc. When possible, Pyhsical Education classes are outside. Lessons in Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, etc are given.
Fiscal Conservative August 02, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Continued: Townspeople, Parents, School Personnel ENCOURAGE an active lifestyle, not a SEDATE lifestyle that goes on in Stoughton's Elementary Schools. Demand that students are allowed the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise throughout the school year, not just when teachers feel like going outside. You, the PARENTS, are the only ones who can make this change!!! Do it for your childs betterment. Don't let teachers say its "too cold for the child". Its NOT. Its too cold for them. You pay their salary!!! Children should be taught how to enjoy the outdoors, rather than hating it. Afterall, we live in an area with 4 seasons. If we can't enjoy them all, we shouldn't live here. Back in the 50's, we were always outside for recess, very rarely, indoors. The President made one statement that is SO true. "Over the years , we have become soft". Lets change that NOW!!! Contact the School Dept for the betterment of your child, not the TEACHERS!!!
Bonnie Engelhardt August 02, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I have a colleague with diverticulitis and can't eat popcorn because of its 'shell-like' casing. Does sorghum have the same physical structure? Where can adults get a taste? Bonnie
Fiscal Conservative August 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Medical research has shown that people with diverticulitis don't have to shy away from food with seeds, nuts, etc. I've been dealing with this disease for over 20 years. I, too, didn't eat these foods. Upon reading, studying, researching, and discussing with Internal Medicine, Gastroenterologists and Colorectal surgeons, I've been eating the foods that were on the unacceptable list. Been doing so for 5 years w/no problems. Key is....MODERATION. Updates are always taking place. It's up to the patient to be aware.

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