Green Room

The next frontier for the food police: Eliminating milk from school lunch

posted at 1:45 pm on July 26, 2012 by

Got milk? Your child may not be able to answer yes for much longer if the so-called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) gets its way. This self-appointed arbiter of all things nutrition-related has petitioned the U.S. government to remove milk as a required food group from the National School Lunch Program.

In the petition, the organization’s director of nutrition, Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., writes:

The nutritional rationale for including dairy milk in school meal programs was based primarily on its calcium content; therefore, dairy milk was presumed to promote bone health and integrity. This supposition has proven false. Abundant evidence has shown that milk has no special effect on bone health and does not prevent fractures in children or adults.

Calcium is an important nutrient, the petition goes on to note, but adds that “it is available from many other food sources that have a more healthful nutritional profile, compared with dairy products. (“Milk,” the reader learns elsewhere, “is high in sugar, high in fat and high in animal protein.”)

So what are some of these calcium-rich foods that can be fed to schoolchildren at lunchtime? They include “beans, green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, collard greens), tofu products, breads, and cereals.” Yum! Hard to imagine hungry third graders turning their noses up at a delicious and nutritious kale and tofu casserole.

Those who believe they can make this happen might want to do a reality check with Dennis Barrett, food services director of the Los Angeles Unified School District. When he revamped the menu served to the district’s 650,000 students to include lentil and brown rice cutlets, vegetarian curries, and quinoa salads, many of them began smuggling in junk food: candy, chips, corn dogs, and chicken nuggets. Barrett was ultimately compelled to scrap what one student dubbed “nasty, rotty stuff” and go back to serving burgers.

Nor are all nutritionists in agreement that milk has no redeeming value. TIME in its coverage of the “milk wars” notes that cow juice is rich in vitamin A, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. The article also quotes dissenting opinions on the merits of including milk in children’s diets. One of them is Keri Gans, a registered dietician and author of The Small Change Diet, who is quoted as saying, “I think it’s irresponsible to take this beverage that children enjoy, especially among those who are unable to meet their nutrient needs for the day, and remove it from the lunch line.”

Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, agrees. “Parents all over the country are trying to get kids to eat and drink foods that are good for them, and milk is one of them,” he argues. “It’s a drink that kids really like.”

Finally, a 2008 report published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that drinking plain or flavored milk was associated with higher overall nutrient intake, and was not associated with weight gain.

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Milk is bad?

Next thing you know, they’ll just say that all food is bad for the kids and propose starving them at school.

Bitter Clinger on July 26, 2012 at 3:04 PM

So what are some of these calcium-rich foods that can be fed to schoolchildren at lunchtime? They include “beans, green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, collard greens), tofu products, breads, and cereals.”

I bet Big Tofu is behind this.

rbj on July 26, 2012 at 3:15 PM

I read yesterday in a comment from a reader (the story was on Drudge Report) that PCRM is linked to PETA. Why these extremists get to push their wacky views in the schools is alarming. Yet another reason my kids go to Catholic school — at least I got to pick the views being pushed on them.

JoAnn1965 on July 26, 2012 at 3:18 PM

PCRM is composed of radical Vegans who promote a low fat, soy heavy, animal free diet.

If you want your kids to be malnourished and stupid, by all means follow their advice.

Wendya on July 26, 2012 at 3:31 PM

It has NOTHING to do with the calcium, it has to do with the vitamin D. Most kids do not get outside enough these days and don’t get enough sunshine. Their primary source of vitamin D is milk. If you remove the milk, we will start getting kids with rickets as we had years ago when children were inside working in mills and didn’t get enough sunshine.

crosspatch on July 26, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Barf.

This isn’t a war against milk.

It’s a war against taste.

itsspideyman on July 26, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Does anyone remember when it was FUN to be a kid?!

I feel sorry for kids growing up today. They are exposed to all this pc, nanny-state crapola!

One reason my daughter goes to a private, Christian school. They serve milk there. And food. I mean real food.

Sterling Holobyte on July 26, 2012 at 5:40 PM

I don’t think my children’s school is going to touch milk on the menu. Too many dairy farmers around here.

magicbeans on July 26, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Does anyone remember when it was FUN to be a kid?!

Sterling Holobyte on July 26, 2012 at 5:40 PM

You mean back before liberal wingnuts ran the country into the black pit of Eternal Stupidity?

squint on July 26, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Howard – As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, my wife and I have both adopted a ‘vegan’ style of eating. No meat, no poultry, no fish, no eggs, no milk or dairy products, and the biggie – no caffeine. And roughly 80-85% of our diet is raw food. Having said that, if you’d like to go out and chow down on a nice, juicy steak, all I can say is, ENJOY! I find I”m better off without the items I’ve listed, but that’s MY choice of how to eat. (Speaking of which, aren’t these Leftists supposed to be “pro-choice”?) I can pretty much assure you the move has far less to do with “children’s health” and far more to do with dictatorial control of your children’s lives. One more way in which The Government wants to relegate parents to the role of breeders. Previous examples would include the Soviet Union, NAZI Germany, and every other dictatorship on planet Earth.

oldleprechaun on July 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Sooo – take away milk & replace it with …. water? soda? juice drinks?
This is not a discussion about the health benefits to children, it’s a way for PCRM PETA to inject their political opinions disguised as Consideration for the Children (TM)

mdenis39 on July 27, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Speaking of which, aren’t these Leftists supposed to be “pro-choice”?

Fun point. I’ll have to remember that.

Howard Portnoy on July 27, 2012 at 4:10 PM

My dietary choices are centered around a whole food, plant-based diet. The issue I have with mandating any sort of diet is that all we have is our current best guesses of what is or is not healthy. What I do works for me at this present time, and I believe long-term it is the best overall choice for good health. When you start to bully your ideas, you lose all credibility in my book.

catalan on July 27, 2012 at 11:13 PM

At this rate schoolchildren won’t be allowed to ingest anything except lettuce and water by 2020.

Aitch748 on July 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM