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A month full of sundaes

July is not only the month to celebrate America’s independence, but it is also the month to celebrate ice cream. July is National Ice Cream Month, and it gives Americans a reason to scream a little louder for the fresh, cool treat.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated the summer month of July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday National Ice Cream Day. This year, the day falls on July 20.

In a proclamation, Reagan called for the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Katie Koppenhoefer, spokeswoman for the International Ice Cream Association, said the proclamation came because Reagan was an avid dessert lover and found ice cream a fun and nutritious treat.

“My feeling is also that (Reagan) thought that July was mid-summer and ice cream is a fun and great summer food,” Koppenhoefer said. “It’s cool and great to eat.”

According to the IICA, which is based out of Washington D.C., ice cream is enjoyed by 90 percent of the nation’s population and generates about $20 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. In addition, about 9 percent of all milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to make ice cream.

Koppenhoefer added that Americans eat more ice cream than any other country in the world, which amounted to about 23 quarts per person in 2001.

Although the true origin of ice cream can be traced back as far as the second century B.C., there is no specific date or inventor credited for the discovery. Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar and Marco Polo returned to Italy from the East with a recipe that closely resembled what is now called sherbet. However, the recipe that Polo had is what historians estimate evolved into ice cream sometime in the 16th century. England has been recorded to discover ice cream at the same time or even earlier than the Italians.

In 1700, however, the first official account of ice cream in America was reported when a guest of Maryland Gov. William Bladen wrote a letter citing it. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that ice cream was widely available and led to new creations. Until then, ice cream remained a rare and exotic dessert that was enjoyed only by the elite.

Ice cream even became an edible morale symbol during World War II. Military branches tried to outdo each other in serving ice cream to its troops. Even after the war concluded, America celebrated its victory with ice cream.

Fast forward to the present, Americans and ice cream retailers take July and its month to celebrate its creation and taste. Koppenhoefer said the month is something fun to celebrate.

“At the end of June, we go to Capitol Hill and throw a huge ice cream party for the senators and their staffs,” she said. “We serve ice cream and kick off July and National Ice Cream Month. It’s definitely a fun thing to celebrate.”

Lee Brunson, the Lakeland spokesman for Publix supermarkets, said every July is National Frozen Food Month, but he doesn’t know if it is a coincidence.

“For all retailers of frozen food, it is their month. Its not just something Publix does,” Brunson said.

Brunson added that Publix has selected frozen food items on sale during the month, which may include ice cream.

Publix isn’t the only store that celebrates ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery, which has three locations in the Tampa Bay area, is partnering up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In honor of National Ice Cream Month, Jami Thompson spokeswoman for Cold Stone, said all ice cream purchases made during July will benefit the foundation.

“This is our second year doing this promotion,” Thompson said. “It was a huge success last year.”

In addition, for a $1 donation, Cold Stone will be inviting ice cream lovers to their stores nationwide to invent their own signature ice cream creation and have their name and recipe printed on a Make-A-Wish star.

Thompson said the stores will hold the world’s largest ice cream social July 24 from 5-8 p.m. She added that guests for the event would be treated to the Make-A-Wish Creation, which consists of cake butter, ice cream, Oreos, M&M’s and chocolate fudge.

“Every day is a great day for ice cream,” said Thompson, in reference to National Ice Cream Month. “And at the end of the month, we will donate all the proceeds.”

Robin Crouch, marketing manager of USF Dining Services, pointed out that two new ice cream shops are open on campus just in time for the celebration.

Crouch said both Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Freshens have received great reviews from students and faculty.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive for both locations,” she said. “Since we are in Florida and it seems like it is 80 degrees daily, ice cream and smoothies are a big hit.”

When new dining service Aramark took over the USF food contract, the campus community requested an ice cream and soft serve yogurt shop, Crouch said.

“After we got on campus, that was one constant, from faculty to staff to residents to commuters,” she said, in an e-mail. “Everyone wanted ice cream and yogurt and so we gave them both.”

But just how much ice cream is too much ice cream? The cool sensation and tasty dessert to nutritionists is not that it is bad, but too much without moderation cannot be healthy.

Anna Torrens Salemi, a graduate student in the College of Public Health, said a little bit of ice cream is not going to hurt anyone, with alternative options.

“There are non-fat, low-fat etc.,” Torrens Salemi said. “People should be wise when they choose. Most people fill up the bowl when the serving size should be like a half of cup.”

Torrens Salemi, who studies health education and is an ice cream lover, said she has heard of National Ice Cream Month.

“I always have ice cream in the house,” she said.

She added that ice cream is a good source of calcium, but emphasizes how important moderation is in a healthy diet.

“Ice cream alone is not going to make a person obese,” she said. “But people as consumers are pickier now on what is in their food and are becoming more aware (that there is a problem with obesity).”

Seraphine Pitt, a graduate student in the College of Public Health, said she agrees with Torrens Salemi that ice cream should be eaten in moderation. Pitt said that in addition to eating in moderation, people could add a healthy component to it.

“Including nuts or fruit on top or with ice cream is OK too,” Pitt said. “Or using nuts or fruit as a supplement to ice cream sometimes is also healthier.”

Torrens Salemi added that, especially for women, any type of calcium intake is good, and ice cream is considered to be part of the dairy products in the food pyramid.

“Ice cream is cold and refreshing, and it is still considered important to the diet,” Torrens Salemi said. “Sometimes people tend to overdo it, especially with sweets.”

As for having a month to celebrate ice cream, Torrens Salemi said it’s a month that she thinks should continue.

“National Ice Cream Month is something we should celebrate, but people just don’t think about calories sometimes,” she said.

Pitt added that she isn’t sure if the month is wise because of the turmoil today with being obese, but as an ice cream lover herself, she said the healthy component is a good choice.

“I think it’s summer and it is a great time to be outdoors and to have fun,” Pitt said.