This just in: the Los Angeles Unified School District voted on Tuesday to ban flavored milk. I welcome this initiative because I don’t think schools should be in the business of giving kids sugary milk every day. Chef Ann has called chocolate milk “soda in drag.” There’s a lot of added sugar in flavored milk as well as high fructose corn syrup and, in the case of many strawberry milks, they also contain artificial food dyes (Red #40). Let’s jack kids up on sugar and then teach them to read! Yee-haw!
But seriously, some nutritionists worry that if kids stop drinking milk they miss out on key nutrients including calcium and vitamin D. Well, I do think that some kids are turned off by white milk. I’ve blogged about the taste of my school’s plain white milk as stale and papery before. Not exactly pleasant. Spoonfed discovered that 66% of school milk sales are coming from the sale of flavored milks. And the potential loss of those sales could be devastating financially for school districts who are strapped for cash and the dairy industry, which I read is suffering from lower milk sales (though I can’t find a supporting link right now).
Andy Bellatti has blogged about other sources of calcium and vitamin D including leafy, dark greens. I know that a lot of people struggle to get their kids to eat greens at home — how can school districts get kids to chow down on foods that are new and unfamiliar? Am I lucky that I have a kid that is a great eater? Good question. Luck is a part of it. Also I think I exposed him to tons of foods during a “critical period” (that coincided with me eating school food for a year and then changing my life from the bottom up). What about school kids who have been eating processed food for a few years in a row? Well, I believe they have to grow there own greens to really be invested in their consumption. But school gardens are a totally different issue.
It doesn’t help that large, veritable news organizations often get their reporting wrong. Hey, I screw things up but I’m a part-time blogger; I’m not a reporter with the AP. Ed Bruske found out that the AP cited a recent “study” that was two years old and ultimately funded by the dairy industry. Who’s in the hen house?
Again, Chef Ann said it well, “We don’t have a calcium crisis in our country, we have an obesity crisis.” But maybe we need to call it a nutrition crisis and not stamp the “obesity” buzzword on anything health-related. Many students of all different shapes and sizes are lactose-intolerant and could meet their calcium needs through fortified OJ, a non-dairy based milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut, etc), or leafy greens.
Overall, I’m encouraged by what’s happening in LA. California does seem to be in the lead in food “trends.” I’m hoping this one catches on. Hey, I’m not against the occasionally chocolate milk made at home (we’ve even bought chocolate almond milk maybe twice this year — it’s great in fruit and veggie smoothies for a blast of sweet), but I just don’t think that schools need to be doling it out every day.