Seed the Commons calls on the San Francisco Board of Education to take a stance against school milk.



Milk has been a cornerstone of American school meals for generations. Mounting scientific evidence points to milk as a source of disease, not health.

Bone Health

Despite little to no evidence that milk protects against bone fractures and osteoporosis, it continues to be marketed as necessary for growth and bone health. The simple equation of calcium = milk = strong bones is nothing more than smart marketing.


Instead of setting children up for a lifetime of health, medical studies have found dairy consumption to be linked with a higher risk for various cancers, especially prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.


All cow’s milk contains bovine hormones, which is thought to explain why milk consumption is linked to an increase of cancers of the reproductive system, as well as increased sex hormones in children and early puberty in young girls.

Obesity & Diabetes

The liquid calories and hormones in milk contribute to childhood obesity and diabetes. San Franciscans have strongly advocated to reduce liquid calorie consumption, from soda to fruit juice, but milk has remained a blind spot.

Lactose Intolerance

When people who are lactose intolerant drink milk, they can experience digestive problems like gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence and impeded nutrient absorption. Lactose intolerance is the norm in most ethnic groups.


Often thought of as the only source of calcium, milk is in fact a very recent addition to most food cultures, which have been raising healthy kids without it. Great sources of plant-based calcium abound and include greens, broccoli, tofu, corn tortillas, and nuts and seeds.



Children have little choice when it comes to drinking milk in San Francisco public schools. With 85% of students being children of color and predominantly lactose intolerant, and many belonging to communities overburdened by obesity and diabetes—some of the same diseases linked to dairy consumption—these pro-dairy school meal policies end up disproportionately harming them.

What’s more, 55% of children in San Francisco public schools benefit from free or reduced school meals programs, making it difficult to opt out of milk consumption. Parents can request plant-based alternatives by signing an official form, but it’s a burdensome process that pathologizes and singles out non-white children.

Giving children a calorie-rich drink that many can’t properly digest and that is materially harmful at every meal is culturally obtuse and indicates that these policies are more about building the profits of the milk industry than the health of children.


Every single day in the United States 45 million meals are offered through the federal National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Federal and state school meal policies mandate that milk be offered at every meal. This is an incredible boon to the dairy industry and places corporate profits over the health of the nation’s low-income children.

Pro-milk propaganda encourages people to believe that other foods are not adequate sources of calcium and aren’t up to the task of supporting healthy child development. This messaging is based on Eurocentric ideas about food and undermines traditional food cultures and knowledge. In San Francisco, the majority of students come from cultures that have other calcium-rich foods that are not linked with the same health problems.

The harm done to children by school milk—and the benefit to the dairy industry—extend far past childhood. As children are taught that milk consumption is normal and necessary, healthier sources of calcium sources are overlooked and forgotten, and a whole new generation of future consumers is created. We believe that school meals should be based on the best available nutritional science, not corporate bottom lines.



San Francisco public schools should set the city’s children up for a lifetime of health by teaching them to drink water instead of caloric drinks, and by introducing them to a wide variety of whole plant-based foods that are rich in calcium and other essential nutrients. We ask that the San Francisco Board of Education reject school meal policies that perpetuate Eurocentric norms and harm children, especially those who depend the most on school meals.

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has already made great strides towards improving children’s health and limiting unhealthy beverages by banning the sale of sugary and caffeinated beverages and by distributing only rbGH-free milk. As of this summer, SFUSD is also phasing out the distribution of chocolate milk.

Removing regular milk from school meals is the next logical step.

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