Friday, September 17, 2010

Milk Friendly City

This morning Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak came out with an article exclaiming that she “just couldn’t swallow the anti-chocolate milk argument.” The “argument” she references is centered on D.C. schools removal of chocolate milk from their lunch menus for SY 2010-2011. Ms. Dvorak writes that “removing the junk from kids’ lunches is smart. We all get that.” Yet she rails on various local school districts that are striving to do just that?

Ms. Dvorak makes a few separate cases in support of her lack of buy-in: 1) There are plenty of other foods that are worse for kids than chocolate- laced dairy products, 2) the chocolate in milk can serve as an inducement for kids that otherwise would not be consuming dairy, and 3) parents should be the ones deciding what their kids eat, not DCPS.

Granted, these points bear some merit, however given the District’s overwhelming problem with childhood obesity these seem moot. To put this in perspective, consider that according to the Healthy School’s Act of 2010 (that Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced last year) more than 55% of District residents are either overweight or obese – this figure includes nearly half of all children in DC and in some wards, the rate of overweight and obese individuals exceeds 70%. Further, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate of adolescent obesity in the District is the highest in the nation. Ouch.

So yes, maybe there are worse culprits out there, but getting sugar out of schools has to start somewhere. And the argument that parents should be able to decide if their kids can drink chocolate milk? Parents you CAN decide this by allowing your kids to drink chocolate milk at home. What’s more is at home you get to control the amount of sugary chocolate goodness that goes into their milk. Maybe teach them a little something about different forms of measurement while you are at it and kill two birds with one stone.

The point is schoolchildren do not need the option of having flavored milk. School food should be about providing a baseline nutritional value to school kids so they have the energy they need to make it through their school day. Chocolate milk tastes good; thus it should not be at all surprising that when given the choice most kids prefer it to regular milk. But, at the end of the day, nutritionally it just is not the same.

Any individual that is given the choice between something that tastes relatively bland and something that tastes like chocolate or strawberry is going to pick the flavored version. This is especially true for individuals that do not take things like overall calorie or sugar intake into account. Dvorak writes that chocolate milk is the ‘spoonful of sugar (that) helps the medicine go down,” but what are schools risking by telling their students that extra sugar and calories are fine as long as what they are being added to is healthy?

Chocolate milk is tasty. DCAYA staff (and ESPECIALLY THIS BLOGGER) are not so old that we don’t remember enjoying a nice carton of it during the many milk breaks of years past. However, years past were just that, years past. Fast forward to present day where schoolchildren and youth in the District are living the childhood obesity epidemic and all of a sudden taking away the sweet stuff doesn’t seem like such a terrible option.

For more information on the National School Lunch Program:

For more information on the Healthy Schools Act of 2010:

To visit the original article from the Washington Post by Petula Dvorak:

To watch the video of Jamie Oliver that Dvorak references:

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