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Group rallies to get flavored milk out of school cafeterias

About 50 parents and activists brought valentines for the people who run the L.A. school food program: Gallon milk jugs filled with sugar and decorated with hearts, tokens they hoped would help get strawberry-flavored and chocolate milk out of cafeterias.

The group rallied Monday afternoon outside the downtown headquarters of the L.A. Unified School District and then walked to the district offices. Their call for a food services official to come out to meet them went unanswered.

The group had planned to bring a friendly -- yet pointed -- message to a Monday meeting of the district’s Cafeteria Improvement Committee; but a couple of hours before the meeting, e-mails went out saying it was canceled because some members could not attend.

"District officials told us, 'If you want to get rid of chocolate milk, show us parent support.' We show parent support and they cancel the meeting,” said Jennie Cook, a caterer and organizer of the demonstration.

David Binkle, deputy director of L.A. Unified's food services division, later said he had been called unexpectedly to a meeting and that the head of the division was out of town.

The British chef Jamie Oliver, who is filming the second season of his “Food Revolution” reality television series, taped the rally and urged participants to continue their effort. Oliver has been trying for months to get access to L.A. school cafeterias but has been rebuffed by the district.

A school carton of chocolate milk has 2 teaspoons of sugar, said Emily Ventura, an organizer of the demonstration. A child who drinks two cartons every school day for a year would consume 14 cups, or nearly a gallon jug full, of sugar, she said.

Ventura, who is affiliated with the Childhood Obesity Research Center at USC, said she also calculated that a child who chooses a school breakfast of frosted corn flakes, chocolate milk, coffee cake and juice would eat 51 grams of added sugar –- about the total in a can of soda. Such breakfasts can be chosen, but students also have options such as burritos, Ventura said.

The gallon jugs –- decorated with red and pink paper hearts and slogans such as “Keep your sugar, sugar!” –- will be given to teachers to use as teaching aids, Ventura said.

One argument for keeping flavored milk on cafeteria menus has been that without it, children would drink less milk. Ventura called that “not the strongest argument,” adding that studies making those claims are often sponsored by the dairy industry and that obesity is a larger problem for children than calcium deficiency.

As for L.A. Unified’s future milk offerings, Binkle said the district’s dairy contract is up in June.  “Certainly anything is on the table as we go through the budget options,” he said.

-- Mary Macvean

Comments () | Archives (12)

When are people going to mind their own *!#$ business. The parents of kids should be the only ones responsible for how they are raised. I already have parents, I don't need a bunch of budinskis telling me what to do or what my kids should eat.

"Flavored" milk? Sounds like "sugared" milk.

The world took a turn for the worse when food service in schools was handed over to private enterprise. They see children's tummies as profit centers, nothing else.

An 8-ounce carton of chocolate milk typically contains 26 grams of sugar, which translates as 6.5 teaspoons of sugar. Approximately half of that occurs naturally in the milk as lactose.

Are you kidding me?!! Why don't we just feed the kids water and unsalted crackers...I'm pretty sure that'll be enough nutrition in the day to get that passing grade in Math and English. Don't these people have anything better to do!!!

@ BLM, hope you pack your own kids lunch for THEIR sake.

Are you so blind that these parents are trying to do a POSITIVE thing?

@Ed, thanks for your comments. The milk served in the LAUSD is typically 4FO. The total sugar is 22g per 4FO carton, of which 8g is added sugar. The 8g would be 2tsp. I'd be happy to send you the link for the LAUSD nutrition facts online if you contact me directly.

This is ridiculous, when the only option is milk, flavored is the way to go when you dont like milk...I cant stand milk the taste makes me hurl!

@ westsidejesse - how about the parents trying to force everyone to follow what THEY want, simply provide for their own children? How about that? Are you so blind that you can't see that the road to no choice, is paved with other people's "good intentions?" It's not your place, nor the government's place, to force your idea of utopia upon everyone. Mind your own. Those who wish to do the same can, those who do not have their own way.

I'm curious what other beverages are offered to students on all the LAUSD campuses? If you are going to remove flavored milk because of the sugar content, then you must also remove fruit juices that aren't 100% juice, flavored waters and all sodas that may be available to the students. That means absolutely NO vending machines where these beverages are sold from!

@ BLM & Marcy - I couldn't agree with you more!

@Ed, I would like to revise my comment. The milk served in LAUSD schools is actually 1/2 pint (8FO), not 4FO as I stated previously. However, the numbers I quoted for sugar in the chocolate milk (22g total, 8 of which are from added sugar, are accurate) .

Thanks for this story. As a Regan-era cafeteria lunch kid, I do not recall the hot dog Wednesdays or Burrito Fridays being the most nutrious. This was when our govt. delcared ketchup packs as a fruit group. When I worked at this same school, 20 years, later I was pleased to see an emphasis being put on nutrition. Although I like the taste, chocolate or strawberry milk is essetially a sugar drink. As much as we wouldn't want pop to be served to our kids I think we should also reduce flavored milks. If the kids don't like it, drink water. Thanks to Dr. Ventura for supporting healthier options for or children.

I see that Mr. Jamie Oliver may have had an influence on some...go Jamie, Go Jamie, Go Jamie!


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