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Should Coffee Bars Be in Schools?

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Americans are drinking less milk today than they did 40 years ago. In fact, Americans are drinking about 40 percent less than they did in 1975.

This decrease has led the United States dairy industry to explore new ways to get people to drink milk. One method it is testing: helping to set up coffee bars in U.S. high schools.

Schools prepare coffee drinks in different ways, but milk is always the main ingredient in lattes. Lattes are "really milk with some coffee, as far as proportion," notes Julie Ostrow of the Midwest Dairy Association.

That is why Midwest Dairy is providing financial help for a coffee bar at a fourth high school in the Fort Zumwalt, Missouri area during the upcoming school year. In exchange, the group will get data on how much milk is used for the lattes, as well as other information about food products with dairy.

Dairy groups have worked with high schools in many states. At a high school in North Dakota, for example, a $5,000 grant from a dairy group helped pay for an espresso machine. The device makes lattes with about .23 liters of milk each. The drinks used around 2,000 liters of milk this past school year.

In Florida, a dairy group said it paid for coffee carts in 21 high schools this past year. In the American Southwest, a dairy group gave grants to seven schools for coffee programs.

Not all high school coffee bars get money from dairy groups. Even then, the money may only cover a small amount of the costs. But school food operators say lattes give American teenagers another reason to stay on school grounds.

But not everyone thinks teens should drink coffee, or that they need milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics disapproves of children consuming products with caffeine. The group notes possible harmful effects on developing bodies. Some studies have linked caffeine use to lack of sleep, headaches and agitation.

While dairy is a good way to get calcium and vitamin D, it is not the only way to get such nutrients, says Doctor Natalie Muth. She is a child care specialist and representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As for lattes, Muth said there are ways to persuade students to get the nutrients of milk without promoting caffeine use.

"If they're going to be having that outside of school, that's one thing. But in schools, the idea is to promote good health and nutrition," she said.

For years, the U.S. dairy industry has been known for its "Got Milk" advertising campaign. Now, the industry is hoping its newer "Undeniably Dairy" ads will help fight off such products as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk. These drinks are becoming more popular with Americans.

The dairy industry is also reacting to changing ideas about diet and nutrition.

With fat no longer seen as bad for human health, skim milk has suffered the sharpest decreases in demand in recent years. Skim milk is milk that has had all of the fat removed.

It is difficult for dairy producers to reduce production of skim milk because it is left over after making other products, such as butter, cheese and ice cream.

The dairy industry blames government rules that limit the fat in milk for teenagers drinking less milk. It argues that generations of students are growing up disliking milk because of the watery taste of skim.

I'm John Russell.

Candice Choi reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted her story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dairy – adj. containing or made from milk

bar – n. a business where drinks are served

ingredient – n. an important part of something

proportion - n. the relationship that exists between the size, number, or amount of two things

grant – n. an amount of money given for a specific purpose

espresso - n. strong coffee that is made by forcing steam through finely ground roasted coffee beans

cart – n. a vehicle with two or four wheels

consume – v. to eat or drink

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