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Will LAUSD bring back chocolate milk?

Mike Szymanski | June 1, 2016

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ChocolateMilkWhile discussing cost-saving measures and reducing waste in LA Unified food services, some school board members said they wanted to bring back flavored milk.

Superintendent John Deasy banned chocolate and strawberry milk from the school menu five years ago after the school board voted it was too sugary for students.

But now LA Unified School Board President Steve Zimmer said he was concerned that there is a waste of a lot of milk that students are served but don’t drink.

“Kids really do want water, they don’t drink milk. Largely in high school they want water,” Zimmer said at a special board meeting Tuesday to discuss district finances. “I suspect the waste of milk is fairly phenomenal in high school.”

That was confirmed by Laura Benavidez, of LA Unified Food Services, who added that federal standards do not consider water to have any nutritional value, and therefore “that will be a direct cost to the district” if milk is replaced with water, she said. Benavidez said that school cafeteria managers have long agreed that students would drink more chocolate milk if it was brought back to the menu.

Board member Ref Rodriguez pointed out that there were many low-calorie and low-sugar alternatives for chocolate milk today that weren’t as available in 2011. Some charter schools serve flavored milk that is low fat.

“Let’s bring chocolate milk back!” declared board member Monica Ratliff, who pointed out that the decision to ban it was made before she joined the board.

In fact, only Zimmer and Monica Garcia were on the board at the time, and they both voted to ban flavored milk. Former board members Tamar Galatzan and Marguerite LaMotte voted against the ban, citing findings from the American Pediatrics Association and the American Heart Association that showed flavored milk is not excessively harmful to children.

One of the newest board members, Scott Schmerelson, said, “As a school principal who monitored the cafeteria a lot, I saw children line up to get their chocolate or strawberry milk first in case it ran out, and inevitably, it ran out. Can we please get it back?”

Zimmer asked the district staff to look into getting the federal government to pay for water or see how the district can get it at low cost.

Benavidez also pointed out that they are piloting hydration stations at Marina Del Rey Middle School and Jefferson High School to have flavored water with strawberry and lemon added to it. “They are enormously popular,” she said.

She wrote down the board’s ideas and said, “Those are some of the things we can look at.”

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