Providing palatable milks with school lunches is only half the battle in developing dairy habits in children. Yvonne Greer, a registered dietician who has worked with the Milwaukee Health Department in Wisconsin, said the priority has to come from the example parents set at home, and that requires education.
“Things have changed,” she said on the August 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream as she described growing up in a household that got milk delivered by a milkman three times a week. Now, students can receive milk at school, but they may not be inclined to drink it if they are not used to seeing it at home. She elaborated on two main factors she’s seen prevent parents from buying milk for their families.
Making milk available
In addition to her nutrition consulting, Greer serves on the board of a local food pantry that operates in four locations, and she knows how low-income families may have difficulty putting food on the table. She cited that for some households, the cost of a gallon of milk can be stretched further by purchasing other products, although those may not be as nutritionally dense.
“However, the good news for low-income parents is that if they get on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), they can purchase milk through SNAP,” she explained. “If they’re on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), they’re going to get milk.”
A shortfall she’s seen, though, is the segment of people that don’t qualify for those benefits but are still facing a tight food budget. In those cases, food banks can help fill the gaps.
To solve the lack of refrigeration that limit the distribution of dairy at so many food banks, Greer said her organization has had great success with shelf-stable milk and hopes it can continue to be used in the future. “That innovation has met some of the needs of the food pantries,” she noted.
Making milk wholesome
Once parents have the ability to purchase milk, they have to see the value of serving milk and feel comfortable doing so. Greer illustrated that some of her clients share concerns about antibiotics and growth hormones in milk. With those individuals, she is sure to clarify the safety of milk production, reinforce the nutritional components it provides, and explain how milk alternatives fall short.
Greer, who does not have a dairy background, would also like to see more of that messaging from the dairy community. “Telling the milk story from farm to table would be what I would recommend,” she suggested.
To further encourage parents to purchase milk for their families, Greer emphasized we must realize that they are our customers, too. “The milk is good for children’s growth and development, but also it’s good for the health and well-being of the parents,” she said. “I always say milk is good from birth until you’re a senior.
“Children are going to drink what the parents tell them,” Greer concluded. When those healthy habits are developed early, nutrition education will then equip students to continue to make healthy choices as they age.
An ongoing series of events
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