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Why Do We Drink Milk in School?


If you were ever a kid going to school in
the US, then you probably remember seeing this in the cafeteria around lunch time. And that’s because President Truman and
the 79th Congress passed the National School Lunch Act into law in 1946, and The School
Breakfast Program received permanent authorization in 1975. That means that cartons of milk at school,
an item almost synonymous with childhood in the US, is actually part of a huge umbrella
of entitlement programs, which provide students from lower income families with
low cost or free breakfasts, lunches and (sometimes) snacks during the school day. And today, the National School Lunch Program
is the nation’s second largest food assistance program after SNAP (still colloquially known
as food stamps). But as cute and innocuous as a kid drinking
a carton of milk before the bell rings seems, government subsidies (like for the dairy industry
or other farming programs) and federal entitlement programs (like school lunches, welfare, or
public housing) continue to be major driving forces for national debate. And at the heart of it all remain two main points
of contention: First: What kinds of services and goods should be
given out or protected by state and federal governments And second: Who should be covered under these government
programs? That’s why this week we’re starting off
small (as in carton of milk small) and then going big (as in federal spending big). Because everyday items can be the result of
some much greater political powers. By the late nineteenth century, most states
in the US had mandates that required young children to go to school until a certain age. For more on this history in detail, you can
check out our video on “Why is 18 an adult?” As a result of growing school mandates, children
were leaving rural farming communities or industrial factories and pouring into state
sponsored schools. At the time, many children who attended these
local schools were expected to return home at midday to eat their lunches, since most
people lived near where they worked (or in the case of folks who owned small farms or
worked in factories with dormitories, lived where they worked). But as time went on and more children enrolled
in school, a dilemma arose since not every child lived close enough to the nearest school
to make it home for lunch and back to school in time for afternoon classes. In her article for PBS, food writer Tori Avey
notes that at first school lunch programs sprung up in a similar way that new schools
did, kind of sporadically and on a case by case basis. For example one school in Philadelphia gave
out school lunches for a penny in 1894. And school houses in Wisconsin used the “pint
jar method” where students would bring in foods that could be reheated in sealed jars. In the morning, teachers would put the jars
into hot water on the school house stove (often the stoves that were also used to heat the
classrooms) and by lunch the food was warmed up again. Some schools built kitchens connected to the
schoolhouses where cooks and staff would make hot lunches or sandwiches for students in
the early 20th century. But the case by case system meant that not
every student in need of a lunch was getting one. That’s why in the 1930s and 1940s, when
the US saw an unprecedented number of entitlement programs get signed into law (think FDR’s
“New Deal” and the Social Security Act) school lunches were pulled into a tidal wave
of new laws that were passed by President Truman. But what does ‘entitlement’ even mean? Although it gets lobbied around nervously
during every election season, like playing hot potato with an active hand grenade, the
concept of entitlements is relatively straightforward. According to the glossary of the US Senate
an entitlement is, “A Federal program or provision of law that requires payments to
any person or unit of government that meets the eligibility criteria established by law.” But the term draws such polarizing opinions,
not only for the programs it describes, but also because the word “entitled” in other
contexts implies someone is demanding something in exchange for nothing. But the word wasn’t actually applied as
an umbrella term for all of these types of programs until the 1970s and 1980s. And although the language of “entitlement”
programs is pretty simple in theory (every person who is eligible for an entitlement
program, under the guidelines of that program, can receive those services) the politics of
agreeing how those budgets are decided and who should get them isn’t so clear. And around that same period (aka during the
Great Depression and in its immediate wake) the Federal Government was looking for ways to alleviate
financial strain and promote economic recovery. So farming subsidies which began in 1933,
like the ones afforded to dairy farmers, regulated product quantities, release dates, and prices. But just like entitlements, farm subsidies
aren’t universally popular and can be a polarizing topic. And if you want more info on
that head over to our video on “Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?” So we figured out how lunch programs became
part of entitlement spending and when milk got subsidized. But when did the two become conjoined in the
cafeterias of our youth? And if those programs were passed in response
to the Great Depression, then why are reduced cost or free school lunches still in place
today? Why kids? And why milk? Well the answer to “why kids” is the most
straightforward one so I think I’ll start there. The school lunch argument, since its inception,
was grounded in the idea that young children (who haven’t been allowed to work full time,
year round jobs in this country since the early 20th century) should be considered a
protected group of people and should also be put into mandatory education. Sending kids to school during certain months
of the year suddenly synced the calendars and geographic location of children right
around the midday meal. And kids stopped going home to eat lunch. Once kids were required to go to school together
it became more apparent to those running the schools which kids were going hungry and which
children were malnourished as the result of limited food options at home. And although lots of entitlement programs
focus on older folks (like retirement programs and healthcare options) school lunch is aimed
directly at the tiniest members of our society. So the original language of the National School
Lunch Act notes that the purpose of the law is, “…to safeguard the health and well-being
of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural
commodities and other food…” And while not everyone wants to raise tons
of kids, it’s probably safe to say that most people wouldn’t begrudge a child living
with food insecurity a good meal, because a kid has no way of either making their own
food or making money to pay for food. So by making school lunches an entitlement
program, the federal government is stating that children are a protected class of people
who should receive these services, regardless of their parents’ ability or inability to
pay for them. And this also includes certain structured
after school programs that provide snacks. Which is cool because snacks rule. But milk isn’t always the natural choice
when it comes to the second half of this entitlement program, namely giving students “nutritious
agricultural commodities” in school. Because entitlements aren’t just about who
gets services and what they receive, but also what the responsibility of the federal government
is when they’re providing these services. And although milk is high in calcium and vitamin
D, flavored milks like chocolate actually aren’t always the healthiest choice because
they’re loaded with sugar. In 2010 70 percent of milk served in schools
was flavored and a single serving of the sweet stuff can contain about 4-6 teaspoons of sugar. But because milk is subsidized (and supported
by powerful lobbies that protect the interests of dairy farmers) flavored milk often gets a wink
and a nudge while other high sugar drinks like soda and juice are quickly getting banned
or greatly reduced in cafeterias nationwide. So those little cartons you drank from in
elementary school are actually in the crosshairs of some pretty important issues like… Who should be considered protected classes
of people eligible for government entitlements? And… Is milk actually the best vehicle for providing
nutritious meals for tots? But while kids are (usually) not the center
of controversy when it comes to agreeing that they should receive federal services, how
those services gets rolled out and interpreted is still challenging. Government officials in 1981 were roundly
criticized when a proposal to count ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables in school
lunches was rejected by the general public. Luckily condiment as a vegetable rule didn’t
pass in 1981 or in 2011 when there was another kerfuffle about whether Congress was trying
to count the tomatoes in pizza sauce towards vegetable servings for school kids. But while the connection between being well
fed in school and better school performance has long been established by educators and
health officials, new studies are testing to see if there is a correlation between the how healthy the
school lunches are and student performance. Who knows? If there’s a strong connection between improved
test scores and health foods in the future, maybe kids will start drinking green juices
instead of chocolate milk? Well as one of the few people in the world
who doesn’t really like chocolate milk and would rather eat grass from a Home Depot lawn
bag than drink unsweetened green juices, I’m just glad that I already finished high school. Now I can drink plain soy milk and eat my
green vegetables in a salad…like an adult. So what do you think? Anything more to add to our timeline, or to
what cartons of milk teach us about entitlement programs? Drop those questions and comments below, be
sure to subscribe to Origin on Youtube and follow us on Facebook and I’ll see you next
time!

William Babineau

100 Comments

  1. There is a question that i wanted to know more about and i hope this can be an idea for the next episode why do people call east asia the sinosphere

  2. Hi Danielle, I have my own channel and DAMN I wish I could read that well… and that fast. But, yeah, you gotta slip once in a while, right? I hope they pay you enough!

  3. I’m gonna lose my shit if I see one more comment about how we shouldn’t drink cow milk because it’s not natural. Electricity and piercings aren’t natural either but you don’t see me screaming in your face about it.

  4. I always found wierd to see kids drinking milk with their lunches at school in movies… I don't go to school anymore but the years that I ate at the schooé cafeteria it was only water… I can not imagine drinking milk other than for breakfast or maybe a late snack…

  5. I have always hated milk. Growing up in the 60’s, we didn’t have chocolate milk until I hit high school. For the first six years of my education I didn’t drink anything at lunch because I couldn’t stand milk. And on the rare occasions my Mom would pack my lunch, what did she put in it? Milk! Knowing I hated it and wouldn’t touch it. I use it only on cereal and when I’m done with the cereal, my dog enjoys the milk.

  6. Always so informative, but hard to find videos sometimes. Glad someone else didn't drink chocolate milk. I preferred white milk.

  7. …we need to stop drinking so much cow milk. It’s unhealthy in large quantities, and should only be consumed in moderation. Shouldn’t there be a human milk movement? Why is there disgust and stigma against an adult human drinking human milk?

  8. When I was in high school, I was forced to take a milk. I had to buy a bottle of water but even then I had to still take the milk. I’m lactose intolerant. I wasted SO much perfectly good milk due to this. Still annoyed over it.

  9. drink my soy milk and eat my green vegetables like an adult <3 i think i fell in love with you after hearing that line

  10. I grew up with brown paper bag lunches, and I turned out…. Oh nevermind. 🙂

  11. I'd like to thank vegans (and dairy-avoiders) for making milk and other dairy products cheaper for me.

  12. No milk is good for us actually. It not only messes with the stomach but it also attracts mucus to the vocal chords possibly creating nodes.

  13. So… Were debating whether we should share resources to feed kids from low income families instead of whether we should spend money "promoting democracy" around the world

  14. When I was in elementary school (early 2000's) I recall having the choice of 2%milk, fat-free milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, orange juice or fruit punch, as I got older those choices shrunk, first we lost the punch, then the orange juice, then we lost the 2% then orange juice came back then the strawberry milk disappeared then the orange juice went away again until in my senior year of highschool we had the choice of fat-free white milk, and fat-free chocolate milk

  15. Why do you like green juice more than milk? Sorry if you're lactose intolerant. It's o9nly a few of us mutants that have the lactase persistence gene 🙁

  16. Oh man!! I remember that discussion during school!! At the time as I was not too into politics but I did understand it was to subside farming but I felt, not for the farmer's benefit….less us kids

  17. An obese presenter talking about health? A good indicator that the 'health system' has no understanding of 'Health'
    The milk comes from cows that are fed many toxins. Then heated to make sure it is of no value and is in fact 'dead'
    The 'gluten problem' in modern western countries is in fact a poisoning of the gut by glysophate which bonds very well with the gluten molecule…. This propaganda video makes me sick…

  18. I do wonder if healthier food (since it nourishes the body) or good tasting food (since it makes you feel good) is a better predictor of academic performance.

  19. In USSR all the kids were getting free meals (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and sometimes dinner) in free kindergartens, and free lunches and free afternoon snacks (like yoghurt and a bun) in schools, regardless of their family's income. It still holds up in modern Russia, despite all the capitalism and crisis. Think about, even fucked-up Russia cares better for children than USA. So much for fighting communism, huh?

  20. Usually go through 2 Gal a week unless it's chocolate then it would be more like 3 or 4 and egg nog…forget it…A LOT

  21. It would be a little more appropriate for the title to be "Why Do People in USA drink…."

  22. They never mention the tax burden placed on homeowners that pay for the entitlements. Its always" a "Federal Program".

  23. Drink your soy milk like an "adult"…. who doesnt mind gmo and estrogen like hormomes in their fake milk.
    soy boy

  24. My friend is sensitive to lactose and hates drinking milk yet they make her pay for juice, Gatorade, tea anything. Even water I think they should always have a backup for kids who dont like or are sensitive to milk

  25. I wild have gladly drunk white milk, whole or 2% or skim if I could trust the quality! Too many times when I pulled a milk out of the refrigerator bin, some of the milk would be sour enough that I couldn't stand to drink it. By drinking chocolate milk I could stand to drink slightly sour milk, no problems.

    At that time, it either never occurred to me to take a water bottle or fill up a bottle with water in case the milk was bad. In the 1970's there was a campaign to drink milk much like the campaigns to drink water today. Besides, the water fountains were not built for filling water bottles. These days they SHOULD be in every school. Like at theme parks or Meijer or Target where they have a stand to fill bottles and count the fills to show how many plastic bottles were saved from a landfill.

    I never thought of bringing my milk back to the lunch lady and asking for a fresh milk. She had enough on her hands trying to serve the hundreds of students at lunchtime, and standing in line wasn't my cup of tea. In fact, if you were only buying milk, you could jump the line because getting milk was faster than getting a meal.

    And again, it took me till high school to find out you could buy more than one milk at a time. There was plenty; I just didn't think about it till I saw another student do it. And at a dime per half pint, milk was super-cheap. (I also remember it at 5¢ and 3¢ per half pint, too.)

  26. The dairy industry was so desperate for people to drink milk that in addition to the subsidies, they had to make all those "got milk" ads and post them all over in schools. Advertising to influence kids is sick, especially when it comes to lying about the fact that it gives you strong bones, and now everyone believes it because those posters and commercials told them lol. Also the fact that it was all flavored sugary milk, made it even worse. eesh.

  27. School food in general is a huge money sink. I’m upset that my tax dollars are going into the garbage. Go into any NYC public school and take a look at the amount of food produced, and the amount that actually gets eaten. Meanwhile, there are all these homeless people starving on the streets. I think this is one entitlement that should go away or at least have its rules relaxed a lot. Kids who don’t want to eat string beans… should not get string beans. Kids who can’t drink milk… should not be given milk.

  28. The answer is the lobbying of the dairy industry. I think this video should have explained how incorrect it is to call milk nutritious.

  29. i had milk at my school, wish i knew milk was mostly blood and fat back then… yuk !!

  30. in my oppinion-> Minerals in cow's milk are minor. Strange to think that the reason to drink milk is getting calcium.

  31. A lot of vegans in the comments.
    Europeans need milk more because they’ve, in the past, had more of it and have sort of adapted to needing it as a good source of nutrients.
    Before the 1980s, perhaps give or take a few years, lactose intolerance was a lot rare because lots of chemicals and GMO were added. GMO is more of an issue in America, but nonetheless still around in the UK.
    To drink milk healthily, have full-fat milk without GMO and have it organic.
    As for the ‘cruelty’ front, as far as I see it (and this is coming from a non-dairy farmer who has been on and around many dairy farms) cruelty isn’t an issue, except on factory farms. And lots of British people tend to look to standards of American cruelty videos when it’s a different place with different regulations and become gullible to what happens on their own soil. And vice versa, I suppose.
    Cows (dairy specifically) that I know of are always clean (so the milk is cleaner), go to pasture every day (grass if full of nutrients for them), and I even know farmers who only milk their cows once a day and they’re kept with the calf for so long (3 months) before they are weaned off (which would happen naturally anyways when a new calf would come along, the cow would start to butt away the calf if went for milk around the new calf).
    As for veal, I think it’s much less than average that you’ll find the bull calves will be sent for slaughter so early on (not enough meat anyways for average folk). A lot of the time they’ll be sold to other farmers who will rear them until they’re so fat (not fat cattle! They’re still stores/store cattle) and will sell them on, and then to either the butchers or the auction where cattle dealers (or butchers, or other regular farmers) will buy to fatten on more or to send straight to kill except if they’re not big enough which dairy calves (or at that point stirks) will not be big enough as apposed to what most people tend to eat.
    I ask, how much do you see veal sold at the supermarket or butchers? It’s a luxury, for the rich or the odd exception of small time people (farmers who might try once only for the taste but very rarely, or likely only once in their lifetime). And that’s the thing, rich people won’t buy from a supermarket because they know how bad the chemicals are when they can easily buy organic produce which is far, far better.

  32. This is a bit disturbing considering that 65% of the world's population is lactose intolerant and that it takes more resources to produce a small amount of a product that offers less return value nutritionally speaking. Great episode for sure.

  33. I think I would have done better in school if they had served breakfast and snacks during the day. Those familiar hunger pangs distracted me terribly. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anywhere but the cafeteria. I think nowadays, kids can snack and drink during the day in class. Lucky kids

  34. My school gives us juice for breakfast and milk for lunch stupid logic id you ask me

  35. I'm allergic to milk. It sucked at school because I didn't get anything to drink with lunch for years.

  36. When I was in school we had a choice of plain milk or apple juice. They would let us have chocolate milk on fridays. I always picked reg milk as it was my favorite, except for on friday ;).

  37. In my cafeteria they have plain milk and chocolate milk also water Izzy and salad

  38. the choice of dairy during the great depression reminds me of govt cheese. like snap/food stamps got partly started to deal with a surplus of food. (although im not sure if that surplus also came with the ability to guarantee food security for everyone).

    i'm also concerned about justice thomas wanting arguments to repeal child labor bans.

  39. I expected this video to basically be “the dairy industry paid a bunch of money for lobbying” but this was so interesting and informative! Thank you!

  40. Honestly, there's a huge difference between chocolate milk and soda. For one thing, the portion size: the cartons of milk served in school lunches are typically 8 ounces (a half pint) whereas sodas are usually either in a 12 oz can or a 20 oz bottle. For another, the base: milk at least starts as something that's natural and has a lot of nutritional benefits (so even if it has added flavoring, it still has that calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc.), while there is absolutely nothing in soda that wasn't manufactured in a factory and no nutritional value whatsoever. For another, the amount of sweetener: believe it or not, most of the sugar on the label of chocolate milk comes from the lactose in the milk itself, not the added sweeteners, whereas soda is basically watered-down high-fructose corn syrup.

  41. Interesting video! I was expecting a mention of how a majority of non-white people are actually some form of lactose intolerant. Yet milk consumption is pushed heavily to these public school children. Often non-white.

  42. 7:57 How typical that they are focussing on how the kids are "performing" instead of the long term effects on their health. After all children are supposed to have careers, not lives.

  43. lots of useless non related info mixed in with the little info on why they serve milk in schools

  44. Interesting topic. When I worked at various daycare centers, milk was a big deal. Almost every meal was served with milk and I felt bad for the kids that hated the taste. We would encourage them to drink it, but if it were my child, I would give them water. Milk especially cows milk has no real value to a person's diet. I am lactose intolerant. Another thing people are bringing up in the comments on how back when they were school, water wasn't seen as a beverage. Sad, because water is the best thing a person can drink! Love your channel, keep the food-related topics coming!

  45. Oof the spoiled milk and milk with other foods isn’t nice already give orange juice

  46. A milk carton is free while a water bottle is $1 where I go to school. It sucks because I hate milk but I need something to drink.

  47. Anti-milk nazi's amuse me. That watered down milk didnt give many the bubble guts. People barely had food or drinks and yall spoiled ass complaining about lactose. Foh

  48. 4:18 I got a kick out of the "n" being backwards. Reminded me of how cartoons depict lemonade stands with backward letters 🤣⭐

  49. Milk is a mucous. No one should drink it. It's poison! Most cultural people are lactose intolerant bc their bodies reject it. If your body rejects it, it shouldn't be in there. The only milk that should be consumed comes from your mother. That's it!! They're killing us slowly.

  50. That may be healthy for the financial well-being of the dairy industry. Not so much for the kids.

  51. Sad how capitalism is punishing you with unhealthy food options for “low” performance under it 🙁

  52. hi can you please tell me where did y'all got does nice shelvings please….. thankss

  53. I was lactose intularent and we had to pay for bottle water. I think water should be given to children. Most will drink it

  54. Some decades ago, there was an attempt to stop serving chocolate milk on the grounds that it was too much sugar, and the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn sued.

  55. 👍👍 but you forgot to mention that when people were going into the war they realized how underfeed/malnutrition men were and that had to do a ton with the purpose of "lunch" and "dairy"

  56. I gave up milk for calves about 4 years ago, never felt better though. So glad Im not breast-feeding!

  57. I hated drinking milk from the cafeteria because it was always either 1% and had no flavor or it was chocolate milk that tastes like shit. Even if I did drink milk it would hurt my stomach like hell.

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