Trend Watch: Eliminating Flavored Milk

Trend Watch: Eliminating Flavored Milk

Thu 02 Jun 2011

Story by Laura Berman

Trend Watch: Schools Nationwide Eliminate Flavored Milk

Around the country, the conversation is heating up on whether sweetened, flavored milk every day is good for our children’s health. Schools are beginning to move away from strawberry and chocolate milk, the national media is stirring the pot, and members of the Food Revolution are taking action in their own communities.

Milk in the Media
Whether it’s a widely reported Associated Press piece about the debate, a TIME Magazine contemplation by one concerned mother, or the nightly news, stories about the flavored milk revolution are everywhere.

Dr. Marlene Schwartz and Dr. Kathryn Henderson, researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, recently published a well-considered article in the Huffington Post. They clarify why flavored milk is a problem for children’s health and why, amongst a wave of healthy changes in school meals, there has been a particular struggle to get flavored milk out. “First, let's recognize the chocolate milk controversy for what it really is about: marketing.” They elaborate that flavored milk is not the nutritional equivalent of plain milk, and that we must be concerned about fostering unhealthy habits and an increased risk of lifelong health problems.

Food Revolution in Los Angeles
Paralleling the Food Revolution show being filmed in LA over the last several months, the Food Revolution launched our national campaign to “Bring Back Plain Milk at School.” To date, more than 50,000 people have signed on and shared the petition with friends and family, rallying the support that schools and districts need to make the switch.

Does this public concern make a difference? It did in LA. After receiving thousands of letters from LA residents about requesting a limit on flavored milk along with other improvements to school food, the new Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Dr. John Deasy, made a public commitment with Jamie Oliver on national TV to remove flavored milk from LA’s public schools, followed by a formal letter to the Board of Education with his intention.

The LAUSD board will vote on the annual renewal of the district’s milk contracts on June 14th, so Food Revolutionaries in LA are reinforcing their efforts, meeting with school board members and planning local events. Stay tuned!

It’s not just LA
Minneapolis, MN is the latest school district to join the pack, announcing its intention to eliminate flavored milk by fall. The district’s Director and Business Manager of Nutrition Services, explain "Consuming chocolate milk every day can train a child's palate toward sweetened foods...This [change] complies with the school’s mission to get back to the basics: whole fruits and vegetables; food that’s less processed; plain milk without added flavors and sugars.” Nationwide, principals, food service managers, and parents are taking their schools in the right direction, removing flavored milk from breakfast or offering it as a special treat.

National Milk Day of Action
Spring to summer is usually the time of year when schools sign their food service contracts for the fall, and when parents and communities should have a say in what their kids will be offered. The Food Revolution is working with 155 caring and courageous individuals across the country on a coordinated "National Flavored Milk Day of Action" on June 9. Other parents are using the summer to plan for a Day of Action around back-to-school time. For the latest news and creative ideas for the big day, or to get involved, visit our Facebook page and check out this article.

Where Are We Headed?
The nationwide movement away from added sugar in kids’ drinks (aka “liquid candy”) has already led to the reduction or removal of sodas and sugary sports drinks in school vending machines and student stores as well as child care facilities. This shift should be reinforced (or reflected) by removing flavored milk. It is the next logical step and will help to keep the message about sugar consistent.

The Food Revolution’s values are based on a commitment to fresh, unprocessed food and beverages. As people realize that the costs of flavored milk consumption in schools outweigh the benefits, our campaign continues to spread and strengthen. We can’t wait to see how far it can go!

About the author: Laura Berman is a PhD student in Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California and a volunteer with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

Image from Cox Landing Elementary School in Lesage, West Virginia


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