About That Milk . . .

by Bettina Elias Siegel on July 26, 2012

I’ve been out of the daily-blogging saddle recently (recovering from surgery) and haven’t written on a matter of real substance in a few weeks.  So I’ll use that as my convenient excuse for potentially creating some confusion this morning with my post about a petition by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to ban milk from the National School Lunch Program.

The point of my post was simply this:  conflicts inevitably arise out of USDA’s dual roles of administering the NSLP and serving the needs of the agricultural industry.  And as demonstrated by this week’s rather stunning “Meatless Monday” incident (described in today’s post), any proposed changes to the NSLP — regardless of their merits — are likely to be rejected if they will adversely affect the financial interests of farmers and ranchers.  As someone who cares deeply about the millions of kids dependent upon school meals, I don’t think that’s an ideal state of affairs.

That said, I’m not a supporter (as some seem to have assumed) of PCRM’s petition to ban milk outright from schools.  While I’ve become aware in the last few years of studies finding that dairy is not all it’s cracked up to be (running counter to those “Got Milk?” ads administered by USDA itself), I still buy and eat a wide variety of dairy foods, including milk, and I serve them to my family.   In fact, I’m not just anti-anti-milk (if you follow), but I also took a lot of heat last year when I dared to question the “war” against flavored milk then being waged by Jamie Oliver, wishing he’d use his high profile and broad media reach to address other – and, in my opinion, larger –problems in the school lunch program.

My feeling about milk in schools, as shared by many TLT readers (judging from this morning’s discussion on the Facebook page and in comments on the blog), is that milk does have a place on lunch trays, but not to the exclusion of other beverages like water (which, as it turns out, is not so easy to get into cafeterias) and plant-based milks for those who drink them.

Hope this clears up any confusion.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

EdT. July 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm

It would seem that people aren’t reading your posts in their entirety before jumping to conclusions. I never got the idea you were supporting the PCRM’s proposal re: banning milk products entirely in the NSLP, though I can see where a cursory scan of the top of the article might give one that (mistaken) impression. Especially if they were “looking” for something to disagree with (an all-too-common occurrence these days, I fear.)

Hope you are recovering OK from your surgery.

~EdT.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Thank you for that, Ed, and yes, feeling much, much better. :-)

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bw1 July 27, 2012 at 11:48 pm

The problem is government involvement in feeding children in the first place. If the government is serving lunch, then what is on the menu is going to be a political football. If the government is running the schools, then the curriculum will be a political football. As long as you have a one size fits all coercively funded system, where usage is largely coerced, there’s going to be a battle over how it’s organized and run, because no one is asked to voluntarily buy in. If you tell people they all have to dance, they’re going to fight like hell to pick the tune. This is why collectivism inevitably turns authoritarian – it’s the only way to put aside all the bickering and get thigs done.

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EdT. July 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

Good points. However, since we have chosen to have a public school system (which from a practical standpoint has to be run by a government entity), “government” involvement in lunchtime activities is a necessity (unless we send the students off-campus during lunch hour, which is not always doable.) And, it is even necessary to make sure that the kids have food to eat, because hunger is one of those things that will cause people to do things they might otherwise not do (like steal from others – believe me, I have seen school children steal others’ lunches due to hunger. It was no fun.)

The best (though not ideal) solution lies in public involvement in governmental decision-making (it is also our duty – we are, after all, a sovereign people), both via direct action (such as what Bettina does) as well as via indirect advocates (i.e. lobbyists), combined with intelligent decision-making by the government agencies which takes into account and reflects the diverse nature of our society. In addition, it is best to keep the control (decision-making) decentralized and as local as possible, because as you noted centralized decision-making tends to lead to “one size fits all” solutions which really don’t work (as those who are in the school nutrition reform movement are fond of pointing out.)

~EdT.

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jterry121 August 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Farmers feed about 2 million tons of dried chicken feces to meat & dairy cows to save money. A dirty secret worse than pink slime: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/DOCKETS/dailys/04/aug04/081704/04n-0264-c00108-vol20.pdf

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