By: Rajwinder Kaur
September 30, 2020 is World School Milk Day, a day that brings schools and organizations around the world together to celebrate the health benefits of school milk programs and the vital role they play in nourishing children.
In the U.S., World School Milk Day honors the school foodservice programs that promote childhood nutrition by bringing milk to school cafeterias. Around the globe, milk is also recognized as an important part of school meals. Some countries provide milk as part of school meals, while others host school milk programs that specifically ensure students have direct access to milk.
With the global pandemic continuing to impact lives around the globe, school meal programs, which include milk, are more important than ever. According to Feeding America, an estimated 54 million people may face hunger in the U.S., including more than 18 million children this year alone due to COVID-19. That is why schools like Juniper Elementary School in Hesperia, CA, are stepping up to bring awareness to milk’s important role in nourishing students by running a schoolwide ‘Got Milk Cartons?’ social media contest in honor of World School Milk Day.
Though students are distance learning, they are encouraged to pick up free school meals at a nearby school site. All meals include a serving of milk. To participate in the contest, students are asked to drink their milk and use their imagination to upcycle the empty carton by turning it into a creative art project. Bird seed feeder, planter box, the support for a gingerbread house—the sky is the limit. The purpose is to encourage milk consumption and keep milk part of the conversation to nourish children. Once done, they can post their creation on Facebook and tag the school to be considered.
“School meals are a critical safety net for children, especially those who live in food insecure households,” shares Nicole Haprov, School Foodservice Lead at Juniper Elementary School. “This milk carton contest encourages kids to drink milk, which nourishes their bodies, while creatively repurposing the empty carton to keep their minds busy. It also keeps healthy foods like milk on their radar. It’s a win-win.”
The ‘Got Milk Cartons?’ contest is supported by Dairy Council of California, a nutrition education organization committed to elevating the health of children and families through the pursuit of healthy eating habits. The contest provides an opportunity for school districts to emphasize the important role nutrition plays on health.
LaShawn Bray, Supervisor II at Hesperia Nutrition Services shared, “COVID-19 has increased the need for food access. Families are hungry and school meals, which include dairy milk, provide vital nourishment that children need to be supported for good health and academic success. We are proud to continue to serve our families, even during these difficult times, to ensure all children have access to nourishing foods like milk.”
In the United States, milk is a cornerstone of school meal programs, which play a critical role in nourishing children. Milk and dairy foods have a unique nutrient structure, providing macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat—and micronutrients—calcium, phosphorus, potassium and more—to support optimal health. This balanced distribution of carbohydrates, protein and fat, coupled with its unique nutrient package, make milk an important contributor to the diets of children and adolescents. In addition, milk is easy to consume, relatively affordable and palatable for many children with more nutrients naturally occurring than any other single food. Because of this, it can be difficult to replace milk and dairy foods in a healthy dietary pattern, making it an invaluable part of school meal service.
At Dairy Council of California, we believe it is vital that children and adolescents receive adequate nourishment to ensure they can grow optimally and reach their full potential. Milk and dairy foods are a nutritious, accessible option that positively impacts overall dietary patterns. By prioritizing the nutritional needs of children, their long-term health and well-being can be improved. This is why we are proud to partner with schools like Juniper Elementary School to elevate the health of their students by supporting them with free nutrition resources, technical advising, general support and more.
This World School Milk Day, we invite all students to fuel their bodies and minds by upcycling their milk cartons to create something new. We encourage you to learn more and get involved!
Get inspired with the video below and share your creation with us on Facebook at @HealthyEatingCA.
Rajwinder, “Raj”, is the Community Nutrition Adviser for San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
This annual date draws attention to the school foodservice programs that promote childhood nutrition by bringing dairy milk to school cafeteria.
Watch the latest episode of Ask A Nutritionist and discover if you can freeze milk.