Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LA Schools' Ban of Flavored Milk

Ah, here you go… finally a post where I don’t go ON AND ON AND ON about being a mom. Well, not as much at least. I’m sitting here (or at least I was when I started this post), enjoying a lovely glass of wine while my little darling sleeps upstairs in her crib. Friday nights in the Bryant household are for viewing Shark Tank and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the first being my husband’s choice and the second being mine. I don’t think the show is all that phenomenal on it’s own. Really, the current season is just a variation of the first season he did in West Virginia. However, health, exercise, and nutrition are topics that I’m quite interested in, and so, it’s more the content I’m interested in.

To bring those of you don’t follow up to speed, here it is. In Jamie’s first season, he invaded the town of Huntington, WV, the “fattest” city in the United States. Obviously, that is not such a great reputation to live up to, and the citizens of were not impressed with Jamie at all in the beginning. Jamie’s tactics included going on the radio with a rather obstinate and annoyed DJ, holding community cooking classes, and working with the schools’ cafeteria staff to make healthier meals. Now in this season, he is trying to work with the LA’s schools to implement some healthy changes, such as less sugar, more fruits and veggies, less processed options. However, LA’s school board-- actually, the district’s superintendent-- has banned Jamie from going into the schools. Fishy, isn’t it? (Ha, ha, fishy, Food Revolution, I crack myself up.)

As I’ve been following this season, I’ve also noticed news stories about LA’s new changes to their lunch line. They are officially banning flavored milk. Funny, because in one of the episodes Jamie attends a presentation given at the California School Nutrition Association Event that discusses the benefits of flavored milk. The presentation is funded by the Milk Board. Not biased at all, I’m sure. The presenter becomes rather annoyed with Jamie, as do several of the attendees, simply for his point that flavored milk has quite a bit of sugar in it and perhaps does not have to be a choice to students.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t think this one little policy is going to solve our nation’s obesity crisis, nor am I going to point my finger at our schools and insist that it’s their fault so many children are unhealthy. The bottom line is there are several contributing factors to this issue- inactivity, poor food choices, lack of portion control, lack of parental guidance- the list goes on and on. I can also tell you that I’ve been in quite a few schools during the past decade, and the food options are not the healthiest. I doubt that they are any less healthy than when I was a child, and I think that provides an argument for many parents. ‘It was good enough for me, it’s good enough for my child’. But don’t you want better for them? Food that actually has some color to it, instead of a plate of bland food? Healthier drink options? Fewer clogged arteries?

And that’s not even my biggest annoyance with those opposed to this ban. My biggest is: What is it going to hurt? I’ve read a few comments where parents insist their child will refuse milk if it’s not flavored, and this is where I say: big deal. Calcium is not only available in milk. Other dairy products, tofu, spinach, fortified cereals, canned salmon, and broccoli are all great sources for calcium. Those options do not sound as tasty as chocolate milk, but maybe that’s the bigger issue. We want healthy to be so EASY. And frankly, it’s not, as so many people across the country who attempt to lose weight every year would agree. Making better choices takes effort, willpower, and knowledge. Giving kids sugary milk because it’s an easy method to get them to increase their intake of calcium is an easy way out.

I could easily continue my various arguments about why this ban is a step in the right direction, but then this post would be pages and pages long. The bottom line is that the solution to the obesity epidemic is going to take several small solutions to reach one bigger goal of health. I’m glad that LA schools are taking one of those baby steps, even if they had to be pushed to make that first step, and I hope schools all over America will follow suit.

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