Students Send Message: Milk is Garbage
Students are pouring hundreds of tons of plain milk—more than any other lunch item—into the garbage in Los Angeles schools each week. Maybe that’s because more than 88 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District students are predisposed to suffer from lactose intolerance. But instead of providing a healthful nondairy beverage that students might drink, LAUSD is compelling students to drink more milk by offering chocolate milk, which it had stopped serving in 2011.
Plain or chocolate, high-fat or low-fat, all milk can cause digestive symptoms, among other health dangers. And Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans who, according to the National Institutes of Health, are most likely to suffer from lactose intolerance comprise the majority of LAUSD’s student body: 74 percent, 8.4 percent, and 6 percent, respectively.
But LAUSD—which has designed four pilot programs to increase milk consumption—isn’t wholly responsible for pushing milk. The National School Lunch Program requires that schools offer milk with each meal—even though it’s clear that students are done with dairy.
They’re not alone. As the sales of almond milk and other plant-based milks have surged, sales of dairy milk have continued to plummet: Since the beginning of 2016, U.S. farmers have dumped 43 million gallons of milk.
Digestive issues aren’t the only reason students and other consumers are ditching dairy. Milk consumption is linked to bone fractures, heart disease, cancer, and even early death. But plant-based milks can provide all the calcium, vitamin D, and potassium without these health risks.
It’s time for the National School Lunch Program to allow LAUSD and other school districts to keep students healthy, reduce waste, and save money by moving the milk requirement off the menu.