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Flavored milk: Why bother?

I was more than impressed this past Tuesday to see that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school board voted to eliminate flavored milk from its cafeteria. Now, the more than 1,074,691 students in the district won’t be guzzling extra sugar, food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup with their milk. While the board made the right decision, I knew it never would have happened if it wasn’t for Jamie Oliver, the creator and host of Food Revolution.

I watched the first season of the show and loved the way Jamie was able to turn an unhealthy lunch program into one that was not only healthier, but better for the environment. (Fresh food is always better than pre-packaged stuff that has been processed and trucked half-way across the country.) That’s why I was really sad when I saw the troubles he had with the LAUSD, who wanted nothing to do with Jamie or his revolutionary food tactics. And yet, even with their reticence to let him in to do his magic, he was still able to create real, meaningful change within the district. (Although I would have been happier if they said they were switching over to organic plain milk! I won’t give my kids non-organic dairy, but I digress as usual…)

This week I was lucky enough to grab a few moments of Jamie’s time to ask a few questions about flavored milk. Here’s what he said.

KB: Why do you think people are so reluctant to give up flavored milk?

Jamie: Two reasons: The Dairy Board has done a really good job scaring parents and we’ve gotten our kids addicted to sugary milk. They prefer it. But that’s not the point really. They prefer chocolate cake too, but we don’t let them eat chocolate cake every day sometimes twice a day for 180 days a year because they prefer it.

KB: What are the dangers of flavored milk?

Jamie: The added sugar. Pure and simple. There is no need to add so much extra sugar into kids’ daily diets.

KB: What do you say to the people who insist flavored milk helps get children to drink their milk?

Jamie: I say we should be responsible adults, educators and parents and not give children the choice. We can market to them as well. When I was in Huntington, the entire kindergarten class chose white milk and drank it, and when I asked them why, they told me because their teacher told them to. IT IS that simple. Show leadership. Educate. Be responsible for the health of the future generations.

KB: How can parents create this type of change in their own schools?

Jamie: Go to the Food Revolution website and download the tool kit and get involved with your local community. We’ve got Facebook groups springing up all over the country connecting like-minded parents who want to make change. Get angry and start stirring things up.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jamie! I’d also add that people might want to follow Jamie on Twitter. (I do.) This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again.

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