UPDATE: The school board did not ban flavored milk. The board was asked to approve a contract; that’s why it was involved at all, because it has to approve large contracts. The contract called for plain milk. [Thanks Mary MacVean, LA Times, for the clarification]
Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the US after New York, made a bold move this week. Beginning in a few weeks, the only milk served to children in schools will be unflavored. Almost 700,000 school children will be affected by this decision:
You can thank Jamie Oliver, the thousands of parents who banded together, or perhaps the school district leaders who are facing a childhood obesity epidemic that has never been seen before.
What you need to know:
So what’s the big deal?
A serving of milk is 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces. Even unsweetened, it contains about 12 grams of naturally occuring sugar, lactose. When “flavoring” is added, this means 3 teaspoons of added sugar. If the flavoring is strawberry, artificial colors are added as well.
Are 3 teaspoons of added sugar a day such a big deal? Well, if kids drink 3 glasses of milk as the dairy industry suggests, that would be 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 150 added calories a day! Kids, already consuming too many processed sweets and snacks most certainly don’t need these extra calories.
The dairy industry contends that without flavoring, kids will not drink milk. That may be true in the short term. But if unflavored milk becomes a mainstay at schools, children will learn to appreciate it over time. The challenge is to see what alternatives are out there for the kids. Hopefully plenty of tap water, and not “juice drinks”.