Recently Jamie Oliver and the new LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy met and the new superintendent said he would ask the board to ban flavored milk sometime before July. Before I had time to blog an opinion, my fellow school food bloggers had already published two conflicting perspectives.
Point: Big Dairy Puts Big Scare Into Parents to Push Chocolate Milk–But for How Long? by Ed Bruske from Better DC School Food
Counterpoint: My Problem With Jamie Oliver’s War on Flavored Milk by Bettina Elias Siegel from The Lunch Tray
Here are some facts: Seventy-five to 85 percent of all milk sold in public cafeterias in this country is flavored milk mostly strawberry or chocolate milk. One 8 oz carton of flavored milk has 28 grams of sugar, that’s more per ounce than a soda.
Here’s what I think: Get rid of the chocolate milk. Not one of my students needs to drink the extra sugar. It’s may not be easy, but it’s worth it. We don’t really have a choice — I believe it’s a moral imperative.
I drank chocolate milk as a kid, but I remember it as a special treat my dad would make for my sister and me. My dad was an insomniac and in the night his clumsy movements around the kitchen or the sound of CNN from the living room would occasionally wake me up. I remember eating cereal with him in the middle of the night and thinking that was the best. Sometimes he would make chocolate and even “strawberry” milk for me in the middle of the night. I treasure those moments so much, having my dad to myself.
Confession: right now in my fridge there is a carton of chocolate almond milk. My husband bought it at the store last weekend. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I couldn’t resist and so I poured myself a little and it is amazing. Will that be a household staple now? No. Did my son get to drink some? Yes. He’s crazy about it. Does he desperately need calories? No. Has he stopped drinking his regular goat milk? No. He loves the white stuff and drinks it at mealtime. It’s almost like my son intuits that the chocolate milk is a treat – he doesn’t ask for it at mealtime. That’s the way I want to keep things.
As a parent I’d be upset if my child was drinking chocolate milk every day. Maybe some of you are shrugging off the chocolate milk thing (like Bettina who wondered if there are other things we need to tackle first on the lunch tray), but it’s a biggie. Many of my students are overweight and the ones who aren’t don’t need the extra sugar either. It’s not an “obesity” issue and, frankly, I resent the scapegoating of obesity all the time. Skinny kids need nutrition too — in the form of whole foods without added sugar.
Milk doesn’t have to all tarted up so that kids will drink it. It just has to be quality milk. And while we’re thinking about beverages at school, what about serving water? lactose-free milk? soy or rice milk?
I remember what the pints of milk I got with my school lunches tasted like. The milks I drank early last year (before I realized my lactose-intolerance was severe enough to stop me from drinking milk with my lunch) tasted stale and papery. Nothing like what I had at home. And I was getting cartons basically straight from the cafeteria’s cooler. Sometimes I got the chocolate milk and you know what? It did mask the staleness.
So if participation drops when chocolate milk is pulled, it may be that the kids can taste more than just white milk in their cartons. Maybe they don’t even care if it’s chocolate milk, but they would prefer not to drink papery weirdness. But if kids like chocolate milk, they can make their own at home like my dad did. Or buy it at the store like my husband did.
Schools should get out of the chocolate milk business and start thinking outside of the carton.