School system finds flavored milk does a budget good

newspaperThe Los Angeles public school system is crediting flavored milk with offsetting some of its budget deficit.

The preliminary numbers collected from a pilot program of flavored milk at 27 school sites throughout the district showed that in one month the average waste of milk per student decreased while the number of school lunches being served at those sites increased by 1,005, according to Food Services Director Joseph Vaughan.

Los Angeles Unified School District CFO Megan Reilly noted that if that were to occur districtwide, it could lower the annual food services division deficit from $50 million a year to $20 million.

In October 2016, the Los Angeles school board voted to launch a pilot program to look at bringing back strawberry and chocolate milk, which were banned six years ago by a former superintendent. The school board also discussed alternatives to animal-based milk and may consider soy-based products in the future.

Vaughan said they wanted to give children a choice. He also noted he found no study that speaks of the dangers of flavored milk, but offered an American Heart Association study that supported it. Flavored milk contains a small amount of sugar.

“Some school districts have abandoned flavored milk in order to comply with revised U.S. Department of Agriculture school feeding program requirements, and to bow to outside no-fat, no-sugar interests,” explained Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s rather pointless to spend money on milk or food that students won’t consume; there’s no nutritional benefit in that.”

Banks added that it’s important that Virginia school districts realize there are options for providing students with healthy meal choices they will consume. “Flavored milk that meets USDA school feeding program requirements is available for school districts.”

In the Los Angeles pilot program, schools that had low lunch attendance were identified, and all were asked to participate.

The study discovered that when the average student opens an 8-ounce carton of milk, he or she consumes only 3.48 ounces, and the rest—an average of 236 gallons a day—is discarded. The schools offering flavored milk showed less than an ounce per-carton waste on all milk consumed.

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