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I don’t like warm milk – and I bet Santa doesn’t either

Progressive Dairy Editor Walt Cooley Published on 11 December 2021

One of the things I love about Christmas is the chance to see family. Hopefully, there are more of those opportunities this year than there were during last year’s “COVID Christmas.”

I look forward to seeing my only living grandma in a few short weeks. She will turn 90 years old in 2022. I recently got the idea to send her a set of questions to ask her about her life and then record her responses to preserve them for her posterity.

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My Grandma Salisbury was as much a farmer as a farm wife. She moved irrigation handlines even though it wasn’t really her favorite. She balanced the farm books. She made hot meals to take out to the field during harvest. She was a partner in the farm’s success.

She is a great cook to this day. (Her fried chicken is impossible to replicate; we’ve tried.) One of the questions on the list I gave her was: What foods do you like and dislike? She said she wasn’t really picky. But there was one thing she didn’t like much to this day – milk. This I knew about her already. She would cook with milk, but seldom did I ever see her drink a glass of milk with a meal or eat a bowl of cereal.

The story she told me about why, however, surprised me. She recalls when “hot lunches” started to be served at school when she was a grade-school student. The lunches were often soup, a roll and a glass of milk. She recalls, though, that the milk was often served sour (in the summer) or partially frozen (in the winter). Both of them left a lasting impression – and neither were good. The cause of the poor milk quality was, of course, inconsistent refrigeration from cow to cafeteria. Regardless of the reason, the “school milk” Grandma was served left a lifelong impression.

My childhood experience with milk was equally impactful. To me, warm milk is disgusting. It’s got to be cold. But that’s probably because I remember most of the fluid milk I consumed coming from the fridge at home or cold at school. Thankfully, my school milk was often cold – and that was a feat growing up in Florida. Cold milk on a hot day was very refreshing.

All of that leads me to a recent reminder about the importance of the childhood fluid milk experience when it comes to encouraging lifelong milk drinkers.

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During a recent session at Western Dairy Management Conference, a producer stood up and asked DMI’s new CEO, Barb O’Brien, what DMI could do about school milk. He stated his own kids, who like milk, don’t like what’s served at school – low-fat, unflavored, warm, cardboard milk. I followed up with O’Brien about this in a podcast interview that will air near the beginning of the year. (Follow our podcasts at Progressive Dairy Podcasts.) She reiterated that DMI is aware of the problems the producer at the conference alluded to and is doing what it can to address them. However, unfortunately, she said there are other influencers who need to share dairy producers’ concerns in order to make real changes – including milk processors and government entities.

She described a pilot program DMI is working on that would turn school milk into more of a “milk bar” so fluid milk is dispensed from a tap – skipping the container issue altogether. That sounds interesting. Overall, what I gathered from her comments are that DMI can show the way to success, but others have to be willing to follow.

The bottom line is clear: If we miss giving kids a compelling fluid milk experience, they will likely never come back. That was true for me and my Grandma Salisbury.

What can you do about school milk in your town? Ask to have lunch with your school-age child or grandchild to find out what the school milk experience is like where you live. If you have concerns about what you find, talk to the school lunch staff first. Just knowing someone is watching and cares can make a meaningful difference on a local level.

Also, put a koozie around that glass of milk or leave it chilled in a cooler next to the cookies this Christmas. It will help remind your own little ones that good-tasting milk is well cared for and served intentionally.

Merry Christmas and God bless you this holiday season. end mark

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P.S. If you’re curious to see the list of 52 questions I asked Grandma Salisbury, email me and I’ll forward them to you.

Walt Cooley
  • Walt Cooley

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