Student Blog

Got Milk?!??!

Blog by: Alyssa Frisby
The popular Got Milk? advertising campaign from the 1990s may not have a strong following with today’s youth, but the message is something University of Central Arkansas dietetic interns Amanda Schluterman and Kristen Shores have not forgotten. After learning that a significant decline in milk consumption has been noted over several decades, Schluterman and Shores, along with UCA Dietetic Internship Director, Alicia Landry, Ph.D., RDN, LDN, SNS, began researching milk and dairy preferences and consumption in elementary school children.
 
“Whenever we were growing up, the food group that was pushed was dairy,” says Schluterman, about advertising campaigns from the 1990s-2000s. “There were celebrities drinking milk and advertisements really going for a ‘go drink milk’ message versus now, today, the message is all about eating your fruits and veggies,” she said.
 
Schluterman and Shores focused their dairy research on fourth and fifth grade students who participate in the National School Lunch Program. Schluterman asked students to complete a survey with questions about dairy preferences, and Shores used digital food photography to evaluate dairy consumption during school lunch periods.
 
The majority of the students (58.5%) in Schluterman’s study reported drinking milk 4-7 days per week. Out of the 82 complete responses collected, 36 students said they preferred to drink chocolate milk and 30 preferred unflavored milk. Shores studied data for 206 students and determined that the average dairy consumption at lunch was 1.15 servings, or 9.2 ounces.
 
Dairy foods provide many essential vitamins and minerals and are a key component in meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program. Milk offerings at the schools where research was conducted included non-fat and low-fat varieties of both unflavored milk and chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors. Students go through the school food line and choose their own items for lunch. “It’s ‘Offer Versus Serve’ at these schools,” says Shores. “They have to stick to certain meal components to make the meal reimbursable.”
 
A school participating in the National School Lunch Program and using the Offer Versus Serve concept must offer five food components to students; meats/meat alternates, grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk. Students must select at least three components, one of which must be a ½ cup serving of fruits and/or vegetables, in order for the meal to be reimbursable. Milk, however, is not a required component for students to select.
 
“It could just be that perception is, okay I have to take a fruit or veggie, I don’t have to take a milk,” Schluterman says as she explains a popular opinion among students. Results from the research conducted show that the majority of students like milk and are consuming dairy both at home and at school, but the researchers say there was little promotion to include dairy on a lunch tray within the cafeteria.
 
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children, ages 9-12, consume three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day. “Milk is really important for this age group because they are still growing,” Schluterman says. She goes on to explain:
 
[Milk] has calcium that supports their bone and teeth structure and function. It’s got vitamin A which helps with bone growth, but also helps with their immunity and vision. It’s got vitamin D for bone growth, again it’s all about bone growth, and vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption. Magnesium is in milk and it helps with energy production and regulating calcium levels in the body. Potassium helps with cellular growth and helps maintain water balance. And then it has phosphorous, which is good for energy metabolism. Milk is a great source of protein, and is a balanced beverage as far as its protein, fat, and carbohydrate content. It’s got a little bit of everything, including B vitamins that help with red blood cells, wound healing, and immunity.
 
The researchers concluded that milk is consumed regularly both at school and at home. Ultimately, it is up to the students to choose milk as their beverage, and both women were surprised to see through Shores’ tray photography research that the entrées offered by the schools played a role in which days students selected milk. Schluterman mentioned that students could associate drinking milk with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but may not think that milk goes with spaghetti, so they could choose a different beverage that day.
 
The United States Department of Agriculture suggests that parents and caregivers can be role models for children by drinking milk and eating dairy foods, and can show children that dairy is important for their health. Educating students about the importance of including a variety of healthy foods from the different food groups can have a positive impact on their food choices now and in the future. No catchy slogan necessary.
Posted by Alicia Landry at 8:31 AM