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Flavored Milk's Important Place on the Menu: A Director Shares His Story
Meet Orlando Griego, the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District in California, and hear about his experiences with parents and other important stakeholders in his efforts to maintain chocolate milk's important place in his school district. Click here for the full article from the spring 2012 issue of CN Executive Update. Additional input from Orlando is featured below:
- Griego and his team looked at the selection habits of their students before meeting with the school board and community members. He found that in an offer versus serve and food-based menu planning setting, the required third component was most often fat-free chocolate milk. When chocolate milk was unavailable, they discovered two things. First, the child took a third component that he/she did not eat and subsequently threw away and second, there was a decrease in lunch program participation. "The nutrients found in milk, including fat-free chocolate milk, are too important and we did not want to risk losing those nutrients if the students would not replace them," Griego said.
- On an issue such as school meals, Griego knew that it would be important to dispel the myths that had become associated with flavored milk and to highlight the important role it played, not only in nutrition but in consumption. Gaining the support of the community with the facts was at the heart of his campaign.
- Words of Inspiration from Orlando Griego to his foodservice peers:
- "Despite the economy, despite tight budgets, school foodservice directors continue to offer and serve meals that include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each school day. Students have more choices and access to healthy meals than they did when I was a child. Highlight what you are doing. The one thing we fail to do is market our program. We are a business and as such, we should be following the lead of our private business partners and market our program, let our customers know what we are doing, and stay one step ahead. More often than not we find that many of our parents simply don’t know what we do, how we do it and the many regulations we have to follow."
- "We are active contributors to the education of young scholars throughout the country. Our intent is to provide a nutritious meal that our customers will take, eat and enjoy. School foodservice departments throughout the country are doing an amazing job. We are active contributors to the education of young scholars. Be confident in and proud of what you are doing. Our intent is to provide a nutritious meal that our customers will take, eat and enjoy. It's a delicate balance between what parents want their children to want and what their children actually want. Our goal, like so many others, has been to meet the needs of both the parent and the child."
Free School Resources Available Now
A study presented at the School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference reveals that eliminating chocolate and other flavored milks from school cafeteria menus resulted in a dramatic drop in milk consumption along with a substantial reduction in nutrients—which are not easy or affordable to replace. The study included nearly 700 measurement days over three months at 58 elementary and secondary schools across the country. When flavored milk was not available, many children chose not to drink milk and missed out on the essential nutrients that milk provides. On days when only white milk was offered in cafeterias, milk consumption dropped an average of 35 percent.
When flavored milk leaves the lunchroom, essential nutrients leave with it. The study results indicate to replace the nutrients lost from the decline in milk consumption:
- Required three to four different food items to match milk's nutrient contribution.
- Added back more calories and fat than were being reduced.
- Added back roughly half the sugar, netting a savings of only 15-28 grams per week.
- Cost an incremental $2,200 to $4,600 more annually per 100 students.
"When flavored milk was not an option, many children wouldn't take the white milk or if they did, they wouldn't drink it," said Linda Stoll, MPH, executive director of food services at Jeffco Public Schools in Jefferson County, Colo., who participated in the study. "The white milk frequently got thrown away."
Keep Flavored Milk from Dropping Out of School
MilkPEP has created several free resources for school professionals to learn more about the results of the study and the overall importance of flavored milk in schools—that can be used with parents, colleagues and other school executives.
- Flavored Milk Brochure, a brochure that reinforces the nutritional benefits of lowfat milk, and uses key facts from the new study to demonstrate the important role flavored milk plays in students’ nutrition (available through online catalog ordering)
- Flavored Milk Video, a video that brings the flavored milk brochure to life and is a great tool to communicate the role milk, including flavored milk, plays in students’ nutrition
- Flavored Milk Study Fact Sheet, a user-friendly overview of the key facts and figures from the study that support the important role flavored milk plays in students’ nutrition
- Flavored Milk Executive Summary, a two-page handout that provides a detailed overview of the study’s methodology and key findings
- SNA Webinar Presentation/PDF version: Take an in-depth look at the Quantifying Flavored Milk In Schools Study Webinar to learn how changes in flavored milk availability impacts students' milk consumption and nutrition intake. (If you would like a Powerpoint version, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Rethink Your Drink Fact Sheet: See how milk stacks up nutritionally to a variety of other beverage options, and also learn more about milk’s nutritional content. You’ll be surprised how it stacks up to some popular fruits and veggies.
- Current School Meal Environment PowerPoint: Customizable presentation summarizes milk's value on the menu and outlines how parents view flavored milk.
- Flavored Milk Fact Sheet providing an overview of nutritional benefits of flavored milk, with details about findings from recent studies and research.
- Handout on flavored milk, providing nutritional benefits of flavored milk, supported by leading health and nutrition organizations.
- Many leading health and nutrition organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association and American Heart Association, agree that the small amount of added sugar in flavored milk is an acceptable trade-off for the nutrients gained. Click here to learn more.
Without Flavor, Consumption Drops
- All seven school districts experienced a consumption decline when flavors were not available. Overall, milk consumption dropped an average of 35 percent.
- Two districts found that milk consumption dropped by an average of 43 percent when only white milk was offered.
- In addition, five of the individual schools participating in the study saw consumption drop by more than 50 percent.
- The study also revealed that the drop in consumption did not recover over a year's time. Even the 40 schools that were in their second year of a limited-or no-flavors policy did not see students moving to white milk. On average, students at these schools drank 37 percent less milk compared to when they had flavored milk available every school day.
Nutrients Down the Drain
"It's important for parents and school professionals to recognize the implications of removing chocolate milk from school meals," said Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont who reviewed the study and provided consultation on the impact of the flavored milk changes on the children's nutrient intakes. "As the study demonstrated, there could be well-meaning but negative consequences of limiting the availability of flavored milks."
"Milk ranks among the top sources of calcium, vitamin D, protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin A," Johnson said. "Schools would need to re-plan their menus to ensure they deliver the important nutrients that are lost due to reduced milk consumption."
More About the Study
- One of the largest studies of its kind, it is the first to measure the actual amount of milk discarded and estimate the amount of key nutrients lost.
- Conducted in seven school districts across the country to quantify the impact of curtailing the availability of flavored milk in schools on children's milk consumption and intakes of key shortfall nutrients.
- Analyzed milk consumption in a variety of elementary schools that either eliminated chocolate and other flavored milks, or limited the days they were offered.
- Measured both the amount of milk selected by students and "plate waste"—the amount discarded—to calculate the ounces of milk consumed or wasted.
- Conducted in 2009 by Prime Consulting Group and funded by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP)
Recognizing that many schools want to reduce the sugar content in all their menu offerings, more than 90 industry-partner milk companies across the U.S. have proactively reformulated flavored milk to lower its added sugars, fat and total calories, while preserving its nutritional value. These new products aim for 150 calories and less than 25 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving, while striving to provide a product with a taste students will accept so they will continue to choose and enjoy drinking this nutritious beverage.