Got milk? Chocolate milk ban is positive
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 17:06
Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned chocolate milk from its schools' cafeterias. The LA district is the largest to take such a step.
The reason? To combat childhood obesity. And I could not agree more with the decision.
In addition to chocolate milk, the school district also barred chicken nuggets and soda from its menu. According to Matthew Sharp, with the California Food Policy Advocates, by the fall semester, LA Unified School District will be a national leader in a movement toward healthy school cafeterias.
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the District's decision; the National Dairy Council (NDC) claims that barring chocolate milk from school cafeterias will result in a decrease in milk consumption. They also note that many Americans don't get the USDA's recommended three servings of dairy a day with chocolate milk in cafeterias alone – this move by the LA School District will only do further nutritional harm to our society, rather than good.
It's not surprising the dairy industry would make such statements; its livelihood depends on the consumption of its products. The industry doesn't care about obesity rates in our children – they only care about their profit margins. But the issue of childhood and adult obesity in this society is not a joke; it is an issue of national security.
In September of last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addressed the threat obesity poses to our county. According the an article published in Home Post, Gates told students at Duke University in North Carolina "an ever-growing portion of America's 17-to-24-year-olds – about 75 percent – is simply ineligible or unavailable to serve for a variety of reasons, above all, health and weight requirements in an age of spiraling childhood obesity."
His concerns were an echo of a report released months earlier by former military leaders, titled "Too Fat to Fight." An NPR article summarized the report, stating that "the proportion of recruits rejected for being overweight jumped from 12 percent in 1995 to 21 percent in 2008."
In addition to a threat to national security, childhood obesity also affects our economy and healthcare industry. According to Obesity in America, childhood obesity leads to enormous increases in heart disease, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, physical ailments and heart attacks. Granted, I am not a medical doctor, but I feel these health risks far outweigh the risk of not getting your three daily servings of dairy.
Even the White House has launched a campaign to fight obesity in children. The "Let's Move" campaign, led by first lady Michelle Obama, aims to encourage healthy eating and regular exercise among America's children. Usually, the first lady will tackle literacy rates, or poverty rates, among children. This is the first time the issue of childhood obesity has been taken on – and it's because its effects on this nation's future will be enormous.
That is why childhood obesity must be addressed on the local, state and national level. The dairy industry, the soda industry, the fast-food industry – these businesses will always fight movements toward healthy eating. They want America's children to consume their products. To them, childhood obesity is a sign of success, but the LA School District knows better, as do school districts across the country. We must do what is right for our children, and they cannot fight the food industry alone. Thank you, LA Unified, and I hope more school districts will keep moving forward on these healthy initiatives.