Lessons to Be Learned
James Dudlicek
(847) 205-5660 ext. 4009
When the government backs off, or at least gets around to changing antiquated policies, good things happen. And that’s what’s happening in Palm Beach County, Fla., where whole milk will disappear from school menus this fall, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“But that’s no good,” you’re thinking right now. “We need more milk ON the menu. See, Palm Beach County causes nothing but trouble!” Well, yes, but ...
For years, federal law required schools to sell whole milk, the ultimate creamy statement of fluid dairy for many but something the American Academy of Pediatrics has been saying no one over age 2 should consume because we don’t need the extra fat. Now the feds only require schools to offer at least two choices of any type of milk, allowing school nutritionists to both please the dairy industry and take steps to fight obesity.
Palm Beach school officials don’t expect milk consumption to take a hit because of this; the top choice among kids there is half-percent chocolate, with skim and lowfat white and lowfat strawberry also offered. Dropping whole milk is the latest step in efforts to improve school meals in a district where 22 percent of students reportedly are overweight.
Meanwhile, in neighboring St. Lucie County, schools will continue to offer whole milk. The foodservice director there is worried that its removal would stifle milk consumption. “It’s hard to get a good calcium source that’s not dairy-based,” she told the Post. “My goal is, hopefully we will be able to eliminate whole milk, but I don’t want kids to be in a cold-turkey situation.”
The way I see it, the government is finally allowing the market to work. Offer whole milk or don’t — the important thing is to offer milk, and offer the kinds kids like best and that are best for them. It’s an opportunity for processors to work more closely with school systems in their marketing area to create milk programs that best serve their students while getting them excited about being life-long milk drinkers. Giving the food police less to complain about will be an added bonus.
As Blue Ridge Paper’s John Latham says in our annual packaging report this month, if the fluid segment is going to grow, more dairy processors need to look at school milk as a business, not merely a bid.