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Just can't swallow the anti-chocolate milk argument

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By Petula Dvorak
Friday, September 17, 2010

Forget Fenty vs. Gray, Democrats vs. Republicans or "tea party" vs. everyone. The big debate raging this fall is really chocolate vs. white.

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Milk.

Thousands of children across the nation returned to school without the comfort of a carton of cold, chocolate yum on their cafeteria trays thanks to the same thinking that has also robbed them of Halloween candy, dodge ball, knee scrapes on playground asphalt, peanut butter and a suspect grayish matter our cafeteria ladies insisted was "turkey à la king."

In foodie circles, that's being met with all kinds of gush.

That British telly chef Jamie Oliver, who is going around America telling us what slobs we are and teaching us to eat well, recently applauded the D.C. schools' decision to ax chocolate milk in a video extolling the revamping of our school lunches.

Not that the kids at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Northeast give a hoot what Jamie Oliver thinks. All the sixth- and seventh-graders I interviewed lamented the loss of their liquid chocolate fix. They won't drink the white stuff because "it tastes nasty and spoiled," as Torres Young, 12, put it.

The food revolution is hitting school cafeterias hard. In addition to the District, Fairfax County's elementary schools is offering only plain milk this fall. And with our children beginning to resemble an army of tiny, lolling Michelin men, that's a good thing. At least in concept.

But eliminating flavored milk to combat a nation's childhood obesity epidemic has some surprising opponents: parents.

"As far as I'm concerned, chocolate milk is not an indulgence," said Molly Field, a Burke mother of three boys who is fuming at the "draconian" move. Her pediatrician gave a thumbs-up to chocolate milk consumption -- in moderation.

"It's not about politics, really. But let me decide if my kids should be drinking chocolate milk. Not the school," she told me. "Me and some other moms, we're on Facebook, we're writing letters, we're making calls. This is insane."

Her kids' cafeteria also offers cinnamon rolls, baked cheese sticks and marinara sauce filled with high-fructose corn syrup. "You wanna remove corn syrup from the menu? Then do it everywhere! The marinara sauce, the bread that uses it, those cinnamon rolls. Why target the milk?"

I'm sympathetic to the problem. My kids were really good milk drinkers until a little temptress I'll call "Eve" gave one of them a taste of the only kind of milk she would drink: vanilla. It tastes like a melted shake. He turned his back on plain old milk forever.


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