Chocolate Milk - ©

Democracy Is Still Alive In America – In 4TH Grade!

If you’ve been following the political news lately, you’ll know that the rift between U.S. republicans and democrats is still wide and deep. And there are few signs that the two sides will agree on anything soon. But there is hope for true bipartisanship – at least, in Vacaville, California…

Choc Milk Protest - © 2022 KCRA34th Grade students march in protest in Vacaville, California,
over removal of Chocolate Milk from their cafeteria.

The accord wasn’t reached without some loud protests and concerted arguments by the 9-year-olds behind the demands, though.

In an event that reminded those old enough to remember of the 60s anti-war youth protest movement, grade 4 students at Sierra Vista K-8, part of the Vacaville Unified School District in Vacaville, California fought for and got what they wanted: Chocolate Milk back on the lunch menu.

Sounds like a small thing, but – apparently – chocolate milk is a big deal among elementary school kids.

Student Wesson Markowski told KCRA 3 News, “When we walked in, I was like, ‘What the heck — where is it at?'”

The situation was aggravated by recent shortages of the commodity in question. Chocolate milk is one of the items that dairies are cutting back on, concentrating on delivering adequate supplies of their core product – plain milk – in the face of employee absenteeism, packaging shortages and other COVID-related issues. Even before the outright ban by the school district last week, the kids were only getting chocolate milk sporadically due to supply fluctuations.

One kid started a movement

One 4th grader, Jordan Reed, “toiled over his arguments, bolstered by fact and more than a few catchy chants,” Elaine Kong, director of communications and community engagement for the district told Newsweek. He brought the fruit of his toils to school with him the end of last week and quickly recruited a following of fellow chocolate milk lovers, angry enough to take to the streets. Or, at least, the parking lot.

“What do we want?! CHOCOLATE MILK! When do we want it?! NOW!” was one familiar-sounding chant employed by the protestors.

Reed’s English and language arts teacher, Emily Doss, aided and abetted the renegades, giving them in-class time to create placards.

“Students not only learned how to dissect and interpret argumentative texts, but they had the opportunity to try their hand at drafting arguments of their own,” Kong reports. And their effort led to a meet with the director of school district’s Nutrition Department Director, Jaun Cordon. After some intense closed-door negotiations, the two sides agreed on a schedule that will see chocolate milk back on the cafeteria menu one day every two weeks.

A true compromise

The deal, reached late Friday afternoon, saw the school district soften its resolve to follow current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) saying, “school districts should consider putting policies and practices into place that promote foods and beverages that support healthy diets.” Chocolate milk was cited as unhealthy in a recent CDC study: Effect of Removing Chocolate Milk on Milk and Nutrient Intake Among Urban Secondary School Students. The problem? Too much added sugar.

But once-every-two-weeks turned out to be an acceptable compromise – though the kids did press further on the issue of the ‘off weeks’. And they managed to squeeze out a promise of chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked on site, during weeks when chocolate milk will not be offered.

“This negotiation and the facts brought forth by Jordan Reed and his fourth grade peers are indicative of a successful movement by the VUSD Student Nutrition Department to educate students about making healthy food choices, even those that need to exhibit moderation,” she said. “On the district level this is a win-win for all involved, and spurred an even larger change than our demonstrators may have imagined.”

A successful movement to educate students about making healthy food choices? Who would have guessed…

~ Maggie J.