Critics Steamed Over Flavored Milk in Schools

Online Petition Seeks to Boot Root Beer, Other Flavors

BEND, Ore. - It's a local debate that's gaining steam.

"Where are they going to want to stop? What are they going to want to change next," Renee Lenter of Bend said Friday.

"Worst-case scenario, we're taking sugar out of kids. What's the harm in that?? said Sonja McLean, who has four kids, three of them in Bend-La Pine schools.

Fueling this passion-filled argument, chocolate milk, and other flavors, too.

"They should definitely be able to choose whether or not they want chocolate milk," said Angie Douthit. Her daughter goes to Juniper Elementary in Bend.

Parents sit on both sides of the debate, whether or not flavored milks and juices should be offered at Bend-La Pine Schools.

It's not a new debate. Last May, the same question drove a NewsChannel 21 investigative report. The short answer from the school district, Flavored milk is better than no milk.

"Calcium is one of the major deficiencies in school-aged children," said Katrina Wiest, wellness specialist with the Bend-La Pine Schools.

The national milk processors' education program reports milk consumption drops 35 percent when you get rid of flavored options.

"What? They have root beer milk at the school?" said McLean, remembering when her daughter told her about the unusual drink choice.

It's one of the products a group called Good Hydration would like to see out of the schools.

Citing concerns about excess sugar consumption and links to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, the group claims to have more than 500 signatures from people asking the school district to make a change.

"Kids are bombarded by sugar and processed foods, and it's all over the place -- everywhere," said McLean.

A typical school-sized serving of flavored milk has 24 grams of naturally occurring sugar, twice that of regular milk.

But Wiest says the benefits of milk outweigh the sugars.

"You would have to eat nine cups of broccoli to equate the amount of calcium you get in one cup of milk," said Wiest.

You can weigh in on the flavored-milk debate in our new KTVZ.COM Poll, halfway down the right side of our home page.

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