CONTACT:  Orlando Griego                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

310.450.8338, ext. 70342                                   30 AUG 2011



SMMUSD Keeps non-fat chocolate milk, examines other beverage and food offerings


At a regular meeting on August 24, the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education authorized the district to continue to offer and serve non-fat chocolate milk during lunch in grades K-12; however, the board directed Food and Nutrition Services Department staff to provide a way in which parents could “opt out” their child(ren) from being served non-fat flavored milk, should they choose to do so.


Orlando Griego, the director of Food and Nutrition Services, said the current cafeteria computer system could help the cashiers monitor such an opt-out mechanism.  He said he would work with each school principal to develop a plan to comply with the board's direction, while ensuring any logistical problems are addressed. 


The board was originally asked to stop serving chocolate milk by a group of parents who were opposed to flavored milk because of added sugar.


The Board of Education’s decision to continue serving non-fat milk was approved by a 5-2 vote. The board considered data and information from the American heart Association, the Journal of Adolescent Health, the American Dietetic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other experts in the field.  These national organizations acknowledge the importance of milk in providing essential nutrients to children and recommend offering non-fat chocolate milk as a means of promoting milk consumption.


During the discussion, Board President Jose Escarce and Board Member Laurie Lieberman spoke in favor of staff’s recommendation, stating that this decision needed to be based on facts and data.  They agreed that removing non-fat chocolate milk could result in children choosing to drink no milk, rather than switching to white milk, which would deprive them of much-needed nutrients. 


 “We are primarily concerned with serving children whose families might not be as able as others to provide a nutrient-rich, and often more costly, diet,” explained Chief Business Officer Jan Maez during a statement she read at the board meeting.  “The unfortunate reality is that, in many cases, what some children eat at school is the bulk of their nutritionally sound food for the day.” 


Board members urged the district to begin a campaign educating students and parents on the benefits of milk, a healthy diet, and a diet lower in sugar.  They further suggested staff examine the placement of white versus chocolate milk cartons in the cafeteria line to ensure that white milk is easily accessed by students.


Board Member Maria Leon-Vazquez, who was in favor of the board’s final decision, added that she would like this milk campaign to also underscore the importance of eating healthily and exercising as means to combat childhood obesity. 


While the vote to continue offering and serving non-fat chocolate milk was not unanimous, the entire Board of Education agreed that the district should conduct a comprehensive review of beverage and food offerings throughout the district to ensure they are serving the most nutritional foods possible.  District staff plans to undertake this review by first examining the a la carte items, which are sold individually – not part of a cafeteria meal – during nutrition and lunch.  Additionally, district staff was directed to work with all groups and organizations who sell food items on campus to make sure they comply with the district’s Wellness Policy and to work with school principals to monitor foods sold on campus by anyone other than the Food and Nutrition Department or brought on campus as treats by parents.


“Prior to the Board of Education discussing non-fat chocolate milk, the Food and Nutrition Services Department had already begun the process of examining the a la carte items,” commented Orlando Griego.  “Our department continuously researches ways in which to improve the nutritional offerings on the elementary and secondary school menus as well as a la carte items, and we will continue to examine ways to make our meals the healthiest we can for our students.” 

The district had already removed strawberry flavored milk from both breakfast and lunch, and non-fat chocolate milk from breakfast due to an apparent lack of demand for these items during these meals. 


This past spring, SMMUSD’s Food and Nutrition Services Department underwent an audit by the California Department of Education.  The district was found to be in compliance with requirements set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National School Lunch Program.  The auditor commended SMMUSD for “providing quality nutritional meals to assure students are ready to learn” and for providing “fresh fruits and vegetables everyday at all the sites.” 


Additionally, the district will be celebrating its 15th year of partnership with the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to provide fresh produce to all students on a daily basis.  Farmers’ Market salad bars are located in every elementary school cafeteria and pre-packaged farmers’ market salads are sold at the secondary schools.





1651 16TH Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404

ph: 310.450.8338; fax: 310.581.1138