Friday, November 20, 2009

Hot topic: Chocolate milk

There is a lot of momentum building right now on the issue of chocolate milk in schools. The SF School Food Coalition, a new parent advocacy group focused on school food reform, would like to learn more about how the broader SFUSD community feels about the practice of serving chocolate milk at SFUSD school lunch. Please take a moment to visit our website and vote in the poll. It will close in one week so please spread the word throughout your school community!

With thanks,
Lena Brook

Parent, Grattan School
Founder, SF School Food Coalition

Find background on the chocolate milk debate:

SFGate: The chocolate milk debate

AP: Industry pushes chocolate milk in schools

LA Times: Chocolate milk in schools: A necessary evil?


  1. IMHO, kids should not have the choice of chocolate milk. Why don't we also give then snickers bars instead of food because they have protein?

  2. I am more than a little disappointed that Lena has posted this poll without providing even the briefest information on the additional factors involved with any decision to change milk offerings in our schools. This is especially disappointing as Lena attended a meeting just this week at which it was explained in detail what those factors are. Before you go vote in her poll, please consider these points:
    1. minimum calorie levels for school meals are set by the USDA and must be followed. For K-6 students, it is 664 calories; for 7-12, it is 825 calories
    2. a choice of milks must be offered, also per USDA reg; “choice” means fat content, not flavor
    3. current offerings are 1% white milk with 130 calories /8 oz and nonfat chocolate with 150 calories per 8 oz.; nonfat white milk has 90 calories per 8 oz serving
    4. meals may not exceed 30% calories from fat, also per USDA regs
    5. All meals are planned to meet minimum calorie levels without exceeding 30% calories from fat
    6. Because we have focused in this district on reducing the amount of fat in the entrees (replacing french fries and tater tots with roasted or mashed potatoes, for example) and gotten rid of things like canned fruit in syrup (much higher in calories than the fresh fruit we serve) our meals really need the extra calories from the chocolate milk in order to make the required minimum
    7. if you replace the chocolate milk with lower calorie white skim, then you have to replace those calories you just saved with more food in the meal (at additional expense of course) in order to stay at the required minimum calorie level
    8. the most likely addition, because cheapest, would be more crackers. The simple carbs in crackers turn to sugar in about a second once they are ingested, so switching out the chocolate milk for white skim would result in adding back in more of the exact same kind of undesirable "sugar" calories, in order to meet the calorie minimum (and again, this is a USDA requirement on calories, not something SFUSD can ignore or change)
    So that would be the result of replacing skim chocolate milk with skim white - meals would not contain less calories, but they would cost the district more
    9. Going in the other direction and making the other milk choice the high-in-fat 2% white would put the meals over the 30% maximum allowed for calories from fat.

    Really, the question to ask is, how much more should the SFUSD be willing to add to the Student Nutrition Services deficit (already expected to top $3 million) in order to remove chocolate milk from the offerings? Every dollar of SNS deficit comes directly out of the money needed for classrooms and teachers, so how much more are YOU willing to take from classrooms to get rid of chocolate milk?

  3. This is a false debate. The chocolate milk is intended to get kids who don't drink milk at home and wouldn't drink plain milk to at least drink some milk.

    This is about protecting the kids whose parents do not feed them correctly by wrapping a multi-vitamin in a bit of chocolate.

    Read below the rationale:
    "It is felt by all [members of the committee] that the students who are most likely to take the chocolate milk are also all too often the ones who are not receiving enough (sometimes not any) milk at home," Wilkins says. "It is vastly more important that the children receive the calcium, protein, vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B12, D, potassium, and phosphorus in milk even if it means they are receiving approx 12 grams more of sugar per eight ounce serving than what is in the white milk (that equals about 48 calories.)

    "Low income students need that milk more than they need to worry about 48 extra calories," Wilkins adds. "Some people just look at the amount of sugar listed in the nutrition facts label and assume it is all added sugar, but even white milk has between 12 to 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar per eight ounces. Chocolate milk has about 26 grams of sugar but only about half of that is added sugar. The committee has always supported, and continues to support, the offering of chocolate milk."

  4. Some people just look at the amount of sugar listed in the nutrition facts label and assume it is all added sugar, but even white milk has between 12 to 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar per eight ounces. Chocolate milk has about 26 grams of sugar but only about half of that is added sugar. The committee has always supported, and continues to support, the offering of chocolate milk."

    Chocolate itself, in small quantities, is considered to have positive health benefits.

    The reason that children get stomach aches from chocolate milk
    may be the lactose, not the sugar.

    As the above quote from Amy/Kate's article points out, we are talking 26 grams of sugar versus 12 or 14.

    Most kids love chocolate milk. I can remember drinking gallons of it as a kid (Nestle's Quik).

    The school board could simply find a chocolate milk with lower sugar content, or better yet, chocolate soy milk with a lower sugar content.

    If you just serve milk, you will still have the lactose problem (stomach ache) for many kids. A lot of kids won't drink plain milk and will probably opt for another, less healthy, sugary treat.

  5. OMG
    With all the problems facing public schools today, is CHOCOLATE MILK really on the top of your list?

  6. I'm a middle-class, well-educated parent who serves balanced meals. I give my kid chocolate milk every few days to get a few protein calories in there with the sugar (compared to juice, it has more protein; compared to water, it has more calories; sometimes she won't drink plain milk), and to keep her Vitamin D levels up. I can't believe this is even an issue when things like art, PE, and music are being cut.

  7. can we cut the OMG? Isn't that a Valley Girl thing?

  8. dana, thank you for your explanation of the story behind the story. it's interesting and important info.

    a data point: i asked my husband what they served in his schools growing up in france -- i doubt it's changed much, as food is the one area where the french dry their damnedest to resist americanization -- and he said this: they drank water for lunch and dinner -- no milk. milk (mixed with chocolate, yes!) was a breakfast drink only. in terms of calcium intake, they ate lots of cheese and yogurt -- way more than kids here. they served lunch family-style in big serving platters, even at the largest schools. and everyone had to eat it -- no bringing your own. gotta hang together!

    i have to say, it makes sense.

  9. " they served lunch family-style in big serving platters, even at the largest schools. and everyone had to eat it -- no bringing your own. gotta hang together!"

    That's kind of funny but---
    I can't imagine kids all eating the same thing, family style today. Too many food allergies.

  10. I agree with 8:46. Aren't there much more serious issues facing schools?

  11. 9:32
    I suggest you stop trying to dictate what people may or may not write, it is unseemly, bossy, and just plain rude.

  12. 9:54
    These people must have loads of time on their hands, eh? Ridiculous.
    Low income children can't read or do math but let's focus on solving "the chocolate milk problem" ???

  13. "OMG
    With all the problems facing public schools today, is CHOCOLATE MILK really on the top of your list?
    November 21, 2009 8:46 AM

    I suggest you stop trying to dictate what people may or may not write, it is unseemly, bossy, and just plain rude.
    November 21, 2009 9:57 AM

    9:57, stop dictating whether or not people can discuss the chocolate milk issue. If you are not interested, you don't have to add your OMG valley girl comments here.

  14. Or




    these sadly have become standard usage, so objecting to their use is weird

  15. 9:32/10:32, GFY. Saying that the chocolate milk issue is trivial compared to the real problems in the public school is not the same as "dictating whether or not people can discuss" it. Nobody but Kate or a post author can kill a topic on this blog.

    I am not 8:46 AM, but I found your ragging on the use of OMG ridiculous. If you can't take acronyms, stay off the internet. We'd be delighted.

  16. Valley Girls are people too:)

    (she says, flipping her pony tail over her shoulder, and saying WHATEVER)

  17. no chocolate milk. period. why is this even being discussed in schools? Kids can get their sugar at home.

  18. Frank Zappa - Valley Girl

  19. Kim, I'd be curious to know how the funding of the school meal program in France works. Without that information, it's pointless to even discuss comparisons. I can't believe that the French would starve (so to speak) their school food programs for funds, though.

    The entire culture around food is SO different in France that that also makes it hard to compare. The capsule version, in my observation, is that American food culture (outside sophisticated urban environs) is about quantity over quality, a concept that wouldn't even compute in France. (My personal example of the French obsession with high-quality food is our Parisian friend -- actually an American who has lived there for 25 years and is married to a Frenchwoman -- who shops at one greengrocer that has a fromagerie next door, but literally walks a mile to the fromagerie he feels stocks finer cheeses. Never in 10 million years would a normal American do that.)

    And for whatever reason, drinking milk at every meal did become the American habit, rather than a cheese course. Yogurt got left behind in the old world and didn't show up as a consumer item in the U.S. till the '50s, and my guess is that the milk-drinking habit was ingrained in our culture before that.

  20. "no chocolate milk. period. why is this even being discussed in schools? Kids can get their sugar at home."

    Um, did you just skip right over my explanation above about why chocolate milk is offered in schools? If you have a solution to the various problems I outlined (with switching away from chocolate milk) please offer them up.

    To the person who suggested that the district find another vendor with less sugar in their chocolate milk, Berkeley Farms is the only dairy to have bid on this milk contract for many years. Also, compared to products like Nesquik, this IS the lower sugar product. The only ones I have seen with less sugar use artificial sweeteners, which are problematic in a dfferent way.

    Pressuring Berkeley Farms to abandon HFCS and reduce the amount of sugar in their chocolate milk would benefit not just the students of the SFUSD but everyone everywhere who drinks Berkeley Farms chocolate milk. It would also send a great big message to the whole dairy industry that parents don't want so much sugar in their kids' dairy drinks.

  21. Student Nutrition has been asking Berkeley Farms to reformulate the chocolate milk without HFCS, and also with as little sugar as possible. At last week's meeting of the School Food Subcommittee of the SFUSD Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, a topic of discussion was a campaign getting parents and students to contact Berkeley Farms to back up that request.

    I have a call in to the manager of Berkeley Farms (we played phone tag yesterday) to find out if that's already in the works.

  22. looks like as recently as 2007, french lunch was much as my husband remembers...and it costs 3x as much as ours. so i guess it's like private school lunches here.

    dang, though: clafoutis and mache? and, yes, they still drink water.

  23. I pasted in your link Kim.

    Dang. Along with the description of beautiful and appropriate food being served French public school kids, I found this little take-away:

    Who gets to have these meals? All the kids, regardless of their parents’ incomes. They cost about three times as much as our school lunches do, a cost that is shared among the school and local government bodies, such as the mayor’s office.

    Well, okay, then. Our Senate is today debating whether to debate whether or not we as a society will make it a priority to provide health care access to the 1/5 of non-elderly adult population that doesn't have it. Meanwhile, the French did that a long time ago and is providing decent meals, on the public euro, to their kids. As the blog piece also says, this shows the French people care about their kids, no? And families in general, through their health care policies and generous post-natal benefits that we can only dream about.

    I voted in the poll to keep the chocolate milk, mainly on the strength of Dana's explanation. Until someone can say exactly what it to replace it and not put the district in violation of federal guidelines (which would be a disaster btw), we can't go around yanking it. I know Dana and other activists would love to serve our kids food like that shown on the the blog piece Kim points us to. But then, it sure would be nice to have $7-8/lunch to spend. Plus more hours for the school day so lunch/recess time could be doubled as well. Evidently, objectively, we Americans care less about our children (in the aggregate) than the French do.

    Meanwhile, thank you to all our school advocates for working hard with, literally, pennies per child to make improvements. I've seen the improvements--roasted potatoes etc.--and it is better.

    Guess I better make another round of phone calls about the Child Nutrition Act to push for more funding for school lunches.

  24. Also, does the French government cover lunch for low-income students? I would guess so, since European countries are much more amenable to the idea of safety nets. And how does that funding work in terms of the food provided? For the benefit of those new to this issue, the amount that the U.S. National School Lunch Program provides allows less than $1 per meal for the food in a high-overhead locale like San Francisco, after labor and other expenses of operating cafeterias.

  25. Thanks, 12:49 -- while I was posting, you were researching!

  26. Lena, Dana and Caroline

    like hissing cats fighting over backyard territory

  27. One really important fact to keep in mind - and a main reason why I set up the poll and am dedicating energy to the seemingly mundane issue of chocolate milk - is that federal regulations around school lunch nutrition standards are expected to change within the next year, related to the Congressional reauthorization of the National School Lunch Program. While the new regulations won't go in effect by the next school year, a two-year time frame for implementation is reasonable to keep in mind. And while school districts will still be asked to offer a choice of milk with lunches, the entire suite of caloric and nutritional guidelines are expected to change significantly based on recent recommendations put forth by the Institute of Medicine.

    With that in mind, those involved with the SF School Food Coalition feel that this issue presents an excellent opportunity to think about changing a part of the school food program with both a short-term and long-term perspective in mind. In the short term, if Berkeley Farms is compelled enough to reformulate to a less sugary chocolate milk, that is great, and a smart way to triage the issue. But in the long term, it is important to decide as a District whether or not we want maintain chocolate milk in school lunches on a regular basis. This is a strategic question - for which the reality of budget does not have to play a part at the outset, with the understanding that the ideal scenario may not be possible in the end.

    Another crucial point to consider is that the reason chocolate milk came up as an issue recently is that principals at several schools that have high percentages of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch – pulled chocolate milk from their lunch lines out of concern that this highly sugared beverage has a negative impact on students. I am not condoning school staff taking such matters into their own hands and creating compliance problems. But their concern, especially with regards to low-income students, should be seriously considered.

  28. 1:05 PM -- and what, pray, are you contributing either to the conversation or the lives of lower-income kids?

  29. I haven't been able to find any testing, yet, of the question of how many kids would forgo milk if chocolate milk weren't available. SO SFUSD plans to do those tests shortly at several schools; details are currently under discussion.

    It's low-income kids whose families may not be able to afford milk at home regularly who would be the concern, of course.

    So the big questions here are:

    Is chocolate milk better than no milk, or vice versa?
    If chocolate milk isn't offered, how many kids will pass up milk entirely rather than drinking plain?

    Lena points out that the regulations that make it a logistical problem and an extra expense for SFUSD to pull chocolate milk are potentially subject to change.

    And it's extremely important to emphasize that when school staff DO take matters into their own hands by pulling chocolate milk on their own, that's a violation of National School Lunch Program regulations -- one of the violations that could wind up costing SFUSD millions if they're not corrected, coming right out of classroom money.

  30. 1:26 squeaked: "and what, pray, are you contributing either to the conversation or the lives of lower-income kids?"

    To this inane conversation -- I am contributing nothing. To the lives of lower-income kids -- I contribute more than you ever will. All your types do is talk about it, and about high-fructose corn syrup.

  31. Lena, only ignorant people still think that sugar makes children hyperactive. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to back up that mommy myth.

  32. Lena, Dana and Caroline,

    I've mentioned this earlier. What about the lactose in milk?

    As Kim Green has pointed out, they do not very much drink milk in France. They eat cheese, which is often easier to digest.

    Only about 25% of the world's adult population can drink milk. For the remaining 75%, the ability to digest lactose gets shut off in most people somewhere between the age of 3 and 20. Has the National school lunch program thought about this?

    It turns out that the chocolate milk debate has also been waged in Canada. There, chocolate milk won. The issue now seems to be the fact that chocolate milk costs more than regular milk.

    Thanks for the information on Berkeley Farms. I was the one who asked about the possibility of lowering the sugar content. Sounds like we should be thankful that Berkeley Farms is willing to take the contract.

  33. On the lactose issue, based on some research -- yes, lactose intolerance is much more common among ethnicities other than Northern European.

    But then it's also (according to what I've learned) the case that that's partly because in some cultures children don't routinely consume milk from a young age, and people who don't consume milk from a young age are more likely to be lactose-intolerant. I don't know to what degree that's the case, though.

    Also, the National School Lunch Program IS heavily influenced by dairy industry lobbying -- that's undeniable. But nutritionists overall believe that milk is an extremely valuable source of protein and calcium, despite those issues.

  34. I agree that lactose-intolerance is a serious point of consideration. As Caroline mentions, both for physiological and cultural reasons, many SFUSD students are unlikely to consume any milk throughout the day. But that is a federal USDA issue, and a perfect example of where the nutritional responsibilities of that agency are in perfect collision with the marketing arm. The diary industry is fighting hard to keep chocolate milk in school - I can't imagine how they would respond if the proposal to take milk out completely were on the table.

  35. I use social engineering to get students to take white milk ("Look at X! S/He is making the HEALTHY choice.") and it's pretty effective. My students are those low-income students who theoretically drink no milk and must have chocolate milk. I think the low-income justification is a bit problematic. In SFUSD, low-income students are likely to be students of color, and lactose intolerance is higher in populations of color.

    I would prefer additional crackers to chocolate milk, or 2% white as an option. I'm more concerned about the sugar than the fat, honestly.

  36. This is an important issue to debate, and unfortunately it is one that needs to be tackled at policy level and extends far beyond one specific food like chocolate milk. As physicians, we now commonly see kids as young as 10 years old presenting with type 2 diabetes and hypertension. The cost to the health care system and society as a whole for the obesity epidemic FAR exceeds any amount that we could invest in school lunches. If kids who do not have access to healthy, fresh food at home are not taught to make healthy choices at school, then we have lost an important opportunity to educate them about life-long eating habits. Chocolate milk, as a source of simple sugar (whether that is real sugar or high fructose corn syrup) should not be an option, and neither should the wide variety of other processed foods that kids eat. However, I do think that this is a larger policy issue and will be hard for one school district with a tight budget to address.

  37. As a teacher in SFUSD, my biggest issue with SNS is that I get that they're absolutely and utterly underfunded and in a real bind trying to provide meals that meet the guidelines, are affordable under the ridiculous funding, and are at least edible.

    That said, SNS is so inefficient! Free and reduced meal applications submitted on time are not processed for weeks, during which SNS may be losing money. I know that K students can learn to use a keypad system, which would allow SNS to bill, but we still have easy to lose, hard to use, sometimes entirely missing cards. The first time I heard that I can't touch food or help my children with their cards was when I read it in the Chronicle: shouldn't SNS make sure that school staff get this information? Couldn't our cafeteria worker have told me?

  38. Anon 2:14pm makes excellent points regarding the broader public policy issues around school food programs, and especially the opportunity to use schools as learning laboratories that instill the right lessons about food and health.

    We can't afford NOT to make these investments as a society, yet at this economic timeframe, the type of resources necessary for a complete overhaul are simply not available. But if we as a school district take action on both fronts - do the best with can with our current resources in the present AND vision what we desire our school food program to look like in the future, we can build a basis for investment down the line. We will not always be in a budget crisis - and when the opportunity presents itself, SFUSD should be ready to act.

  39. Regarding the issue of how many kids would skip school milk altogether if chocolate were no longer offered, here is a link to one of many news articles which appeared earlier this month, mentioning a study done by the American Dietetic Association.

    The result showed that milk consumption dropped 63% in some school district in Connecticut when chocolate milk was no longer available.

    However, in this case as with almost everything else about school food, it makes little sense to compare one school district with another. There are always factors which vary from district to district which can affect the outcome. For example, when people say, "Berkeley USD serves fabulous local organic scratch cooked meals and they get the same federal money per meal that SFUSD gets, so why can't SFUSD do what Berkeley does?", they are not taking into consideration that while the federal money is the same, Berkeley gets a lot more extra state money per meal from a revenue stream called Meals for Needy Pupils. They also have much lower labor costs. I have written about this before and won't bore anyone further with this (visit if you really want to know about it), but it is an example of the perils of comparing what happens in one school district with what happens in a different district. Who knows if we would see a 63% drop in milk consumption here if chocolate were removed? The only way we will know is to try it here and see what happens.

    That's why I am so pleased that SNS director Ed Wilkins already expects to be able to do a pilot in a few schools next semester to see what happens when chocolate milk is taken off the menu. The likely replacement will be skim milk plus an additional offering of crackers to keep the calorie count at the required minimum. Then, and only then, will we even begin to get an idea of what the real life consequences, both for the kids' milk intake and for the SNS bottom line, might be.

    Regarding possible changes to the meal program in future years as a result of Child Nutrition Act reauthorization coming next spring, we are all hopeful that we will see improvements like revisiting the minimum calorie/no maximum calorie standard now in place. And wouldn't it be nice if soy milk were offered as a commodity to schools so that it could affordably be included in the meal program? Right now the wholesale price of the individual serving units is prohibitively expensive. Wouldn't it be nice if Congress streamlined the regs so that 5 year olds didn't have to reach out and take a piece of fresh fruit but could instead have an adult put it on their tray?

    Lots of things to hope for, but it is far to early to be deciding that any of these issues which advocates have worked so hard for, are in the bag. A positive report from the IOM is nice but the IOM does not make policy for the National School Lunch Program; Congress does. Does anyone think that the healthcare package before Congress right now is what was promised 6 months ago? A lot can happen between the time Congress takes up an issue, and the time it finally come up for a final vote.

    Those who feel strongly about wanting to see changes to the parts of the regs which cover milk, or minimum number of calories, or whatever, need to keep pressure on our legislators all through the reauthorization process to make sure those changes happen. In case anyone reading this has not yet written to our elected officials to let them know that we need more money for better school meals, please visit and click on the banner at the top of the page.

  40. Thanks Dana. I'll write a letter.

    Caroline, most of the scientific research on the ability to digest lactose suggests that it is a genetic mutation in Northern Europeans that allows them to drink milk into adulthood. It is not a matter of exposure, or a lack thereof, to lactose. It is a genetic trait that is hardwired.

    Sorry to belabor the lactose thing. Sounds like there are economic, commercial, governmental and practical issues to be considered. Very complex!

  41. 2:15 - sorry I missed yur comment (writing while you were posting.) About meal apps not being processed for weeks, I know for a fact that properly completed meal apps are processed immediately after being delivered to the SNS office. The Rocketscan processing system makes this quick and efficient. If there was a delay with any of your school's apps, the most likely reasons are
    1) apps may have been held at the school and all delivered in a bundle at the end of the meal app period; some schools do it this way. So, an app turned in during September would not have been delivered to SNS until the end of the first week in October, which is the first "deadline". I use that word cautiously, as it is NEVER too late for a student to fill out a meal application and get qualified for free meals. It can happen anytime up until May, and if any student has a change of family income (parent gets laid off, etc.) they should ALWAYS fill out a new app to see if they might now qualify.

    2. Some apps are turned in incomplete. These are put aside and handled after completed apps are done, so as not to slow down the process. Incomplete apps are supposed to be returned to the school, so that the school can ask the family to complete the app for processing. The most common reasons why an app is pulled as being incomplete is failure of the parent to sign the app.

    Regarding the keypad, yes and they are on their way. The Point of Sale system, which uses a swipe card or touchpad, is already being installed in schools right now; I believe about 17 schools have been done to date, with new ones going live every week. It will take some time but eventually this will be done at your school too.

    About the regs, and not knowing that you couldn't put food on a child's tray until you read it in the Chron, that information should have been given to every teacher at every site by their Principal. For years all the relevant regs have been included in the Principal's Packet from SNS, distributed at the start of the year. Principals have to sign for it to prove they got it. I believe the problem is that at the start of the year, Principals are given an avalanche of materials to digest, and this one most likely ends up at the bottom of the pile. This year all admins were required to complete QBooks training on the regs and pass a test to show they are familiar with them.

    It is not possible for the two (yes, just 2) management level employees of SNS to train every teacher in the district, nor is it feasible for caf workers to do so. That is not part of their jobs (these are union jobs and you can't just ask those workers to assume a new responsibility like that), not to mention the fact that many caf workers do not possess sufficient English language skills to explain the intricacies of the USDA regs to teachers. Some who have tried to have been the recipients of some very nasty verbal attacks by teachers who don't believe, or don't want to believe, what they are told. This kind of information about regs which must be followed should come from the site administrator, just like info about fire drills, or any other campus procedure, does.

  42. I'm working on a project (as a volunteer) to create a wall poster for SFUSD cafeterias that clarifies out the most important National School Lunch Program regulations that everyone in the caf (teachers, parent volunteers, even older kids) need to know -- the things that SFUSD is getting nailed for in audits. It's not going to be a graphically compelling poster (lots of words), but the hope is that if even one adult in the school reads it, he/she will go "holy s***!" and pass on the information.

    The SNS director is going over the draft copy now -- I hope you'll see it soon in a cafeteria near you. So I hope there's a chance that this will halp clarify those rules to those whose principals haven't gotten the message.

    Thanks, 2:41 -- I hadn't researched all those details about lactose intolerance in depth.

  43. Dana, while I appreciate your detailed response, I suggest you ask around: at the Enrollment fair, I talked to several elementary schools who reported just receiving their meal letters the week before.

    Also, I don't actually think it's too much for a cafeteria worker to tell teachers - who are there when their students are getting their lunches - about mandatory regulations if the teachers seem unaware of them or are intentionally breaking them. I am not suggesting a presentation or a memo, I am suggesting an oral comment.

  44. The letters informing parents of their child's meal eligibility status were delivered to schools on October 20th. They should have gone out two weeks before but there was a delay in getting the Chinese translation letters done. Ultimately it was determined to be a problem with the Microsoft software. Trying to fix this problem so that all letters (English, Spanish and Chinese) could go out to the schools at the same time is what held up the process for two weeks this year. The Spanish and English letters were ready to go out on time at the end of the first week in October; should they have been sent to schools even without the Chinese letters? I don't know - it seems like that would have created a lot of confusion for families who expected to get their letter in Chinese.

    As I indicated, there are cafeteria workers who do tell teachers when they are violating regulations; however this is not part of their job. The more common situation is that a Principal orders the cafeteria worker to violate regulations - for example, telling the caf worker that lunch trays must be prepared in advance for all K students so that the kids just come in and pick up a complete tray, or even telling the caf worker to set the tables with complete trays so the kids go right to the tables. This makes the process faster but is a flagrant violation of USDA policy and the very thing that has gotten SFUSD in trouble.

    Technically caf workers do not work for the Principal (they work for SNS) but most of them want to get along at school, they want to be liked and want to fel like part of the team, so they sometimes go along with what the Principal wants. On the other hand, caf workers who have refused to violate regulations even when ordered to do so by the Principal are often "reported" to SNS as troublemakers; Principals have been known to demand that a new employee be sent to their site if the current one won't accomodate their desire to speed the line by violating the regs. What's a caf worker to do?

  45. As a teacher in a low-income school I've witnessed many a child who would forgo milk if the cafeteria ran out of chocolate milk. If the district can find a way to offer a less sugarey alternative that'd be great.

  46. Removing HFCS from school lunch is a good idea. Of course it isn’t the chocolate that is the problem, it’s the HFCS found in the chocolate milk offered. We should not be passing this off as nutritious. Of course the USDA guidelines that Dana discusses have to be adhered to, but we should acknowledge that the USDA has interest in subsidizing the dairy industry. Can the other milk option be non-dairy?

  47. I voted to keep chocolate milk but to find one without HFCS.

    I send my son to school each day with organic chocolate milk, which uses cane sugar instead of HFCS. I think it's the best option for him since it contains protein to prevent his blood sugar from spiking (as opposed to fruit juice). He won't drink plain milk unless he's at home... and even then it's hit or miss.

    He's not very good about drinking enough fluids so packing chocolate milk in his lunch box is a way I can successfully get him to drink something.

  48. Low-income children suffer from bad nutrition and lack of sleep.

    Lack of vitamin B, and D can cause aggressive behavior and learning problems.

    Sadly, the awful school lunches may be the closest thing some kids get to a decent meal. I've seen kids show up to school in the morning with a bag of cheetos and a coke and that's what their family considered "breakfast".

    We should start giving all kids a multi-vitamin every day, and educate the parents about the need children have for sleep.

  49. I'm lactose intollerant.... I simply wont put up with it.

  50. It's illegal to give kids a multivitamin at school without their parents' permission, though I'm not sure which body of law contains that proscription. This came up when a school tried to implement such a program.

  51. Well, then we could get the parent's permission, on the enrollment forms or emergency cards. It wouldn't be that hard. And we'd have to get a grant to pay for the vitamins.

  52. Simply offer silly straws or some other promo item with the white milk only. That should take care of it.

  53. There seem to be at least three people that have brought up the problem of lactose intolerance.

    I agree that we should at least acknowledge that milk emphasis is a wave to the dairy industry.

    It does seem problematic that there is no alternative to milk offered, given the fact that most of the kids getting free or reduced lunch are not of Northern European descent.

  54. Regarding lactose intolerance, please see the wiki page:

    The page notes that 95% of Chinese, 45% of African American children, and 54% of North American Hispanics are lactose intolerant.

    It notes that Chinese and Japanese populations lose between 20 and 30% of their ability to digest lactose within three to four years of weaning.

  55. I created a fact sheet on the issue as a volunteer project -- I'm a longtime member of the SFUSD Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee.

    Chocolate milk in San Francisco school cafeterias: the facts

    Chocolate milk in school cafeterias is sparking debate around the nation. One view holds that flavored milk should not be offered because of the negative nutritional impact of sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is often an ingredient in chocolate milk. The other view contends that many children and teens who won’t drink plain milk will drink chocolate milk – often including those whose low-income families may be unable to afford nutritious food at home -- and that for those students, the nutritional benefits of the milk outweigh concerns about the sweetener.
    Here are some fast facts:

    • SFUSD will pilot testing in several school cafeterias in the coming months to find out how many, if any, children who willingly drink chocolate milk refuse plain milk if chocolate isn’t offered. Findings will be publicly reported.

    • The Berkeley Farms nonfat chocolate milk that’s served in SFUSD cafeterias contains HFCS. SFUSD Student Nutrition Services (SNS) has requested that Berkeley Farms reformulate the milk without HFCS, and also with as little sweetener as possible. A wider community campaign is about to get under way to support that request. A response from Berkeley Farms is pending.

    • National School Lunch Program (NSLP) regulations require all school cafeterias to offer two types of milk, in terms of fat content (nonfat, 1% or 2%). School districts are subject to high financial penalties for all NSLP violations.

    • NSLP regulations also require a minimum number of calories for every meal (664 for grades K-6, 825 for grades 7-12). They also limit the amounts of fat and saturated fat.

    • Those regulations complicate the removal of chocolate milk from SFUSD cafeterias. Because SFUSD has focused on reducing fat and empty calories in cafeteria items, the extra calories in chocolate milk are needed for the meals to meet the NSLP-mandated minimum calorie level. Yet offering 2% instead of 1% plain milk would exceed the fat content limits.

    • If chocolate milk were replaced with the only other possible choice, nonfat white, an additional, low-fat but caloric item would have to be added to the lunch to make up the lost calories and meet the calorie requirement. That would add extra cost to the lunches. Because of the low NSLP reimbursement for meals, SFUSD’s meal program already runs a deficit – which comes out of funding for classroom needs. The most affordable item that would meet the calorie minimum would be a cracker -- a simple carbohydrate, which converts to sugar in the body. Adding that cracker would cost about $600,000. Adding an additional fruit or vegetable instead of a cracker would cost more.

    More information, including calorie and nutritional data, will be available soon on

  56. "National School Lunch Program (NSLP) regulations require all school cafeterias to offer two types of milk, in terms of fat content (nonfat, 1% or 2%). School districts are subject to high financial penalties for all NSLP violations.

    Perhaps someone should contact the NAACP.

  57. Dana - Thanks for your tireless work on school lunches, it's easy to pick on them but a lot harder to make changes given all the contraints given the regulations and the amount we pay our caf workers (way too much i think, considering what we pay our teachers)

  58. 59 comments about chocolate milk.


  59. How incredibly trite.

  60. The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe:

  61. Impact of Selection and Demography on the Diffusion of Lactase Persistence:

  62. "In population groups with predominant primary lactase deficiency, loss of lactase activity begins between the ages of 2 and 6 y[ears old]. In white populations with a low prevalence of lactase maldigestion it starts later, in some cases after adulthood (20 y).

    "The frequencies of lactose maldigestion at ages 2–3 y, 6 y, and 9–10 y, respectively, are

    0%, 0%, and 6% in white Americans;

    18%, 30%, and 47% in Americans of Mexican descent;

    25%, 45%, and 60% in black South Africans;

    30%, 80%, and 85% in Chinese and Japanese; and

    30–55%, 90%, and >90% in Mestizos of Peru."


    Sahi T. Genetics and epidemiology of adult-type hypolactasia. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl 1994;29:202:7–20.

    Woteki CE, Weser E, Young EA. Lactose malabsorption in Mexican-American children. Am J Clin Nutr 1976;29:19–24.

  63. Hilarious. Many comments aren't about nutritional options for our own children but rather nutritional options for the poor children with the whole assumption that they aren't fed properly at home. I've never known a middle class parent to feed their child a donut for breakfast or cereal for dinner.

    Wow. Only middle class and more financially sound parents are educated/prosperous enough to provide proper nutrition for their children?

    Gotta love San Francisco.