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When getting school lunch, one staple has always been the small carton of milk. Milk has long been a required item in school lunches as a part of the nutritional recommendations. However, a new petition proposes a ban on milk in school lunches.
The petition, filed with the U.S. Department of agriculture by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is asking that milk be taken away from school lunches due to many of the fats and sugars that it contains.
“Dairy products do contain calcium, but it is accompanied by high sugar in the form of lactose, animal growth factors, occasional drugs and contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol in all but the defatted versions,” the petition states.
The petition continues explaining that while milk is a great source of calcium, there are many other healthier foods that can replace milk as a calcium supplement.
“Children can get the calcium they need from beans, green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, collard greens), tofu products, breads and cereals,” the doctors’ committee stated in the petition. “Additionally, a wide variety of non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverages is available today including soy milk, rice milk and fruit juice, all of which provide greater health and nutritional benefits compared with dairy milk.”
However, Anne Goetze, a registered and licensed dietitian at the Oregon Dairy Products Commission, explained that milk provides much more than just calcium.
“Milk is its own component because of the irreplaceable package of nutrients it provides,” Goetze told the Capital Press.
She continued, stating that even though other foods provide some calcium, like broccoli and beans, milk allows the body to easily absorb the calcium into the body. Goetze explained to the Capital Press that it would take 2.5 cups of broccoli, or 4 cups of pinto beans, to replace the calcium in the 8 ounces provided in school lunches.
This petition comes at a time when more focus has been placed on the nutritional value of school lunches. Recently, many schools have banned sugary soft drinks and juices and are looking into banning flavored milks, like chocolate and strawberry milks, due to the amount of sugar in each carton.
“Chocolate milk is soda in drag,” Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Louisville, Colo. which has already banned flavored milks, said to The Associated Press. “It works as a treat in homes, but it doesn't belong in schools.”
In fact, the petition, while good-intentioned, goes against the recent school lunch guidelines approved by First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year that called for low fat milks and non-fat flavored milk.
“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet,” Michelle Obama said. “And when we're putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria.”
Nancy Swanson is a writer for 360 Education Solutions