concerns over milk ads?
Erie Times News
Every school day,
images of Spider-Man, Build-a-Bear, Elliot Yamin, Rascal
Flatts and others encourage 12,000 Erie School District
students to drink milk.
The images, according to representatives for the agency
that creates them, are meant to encourage students to
drink milk instead of sugary alternatives, and to make
healthy life choices in the cafeteria.
"What we really want is to make sure students drink
milk," said MilkMedia CEO Richard Long.
But the question being asked by parents, school
officials who order the milk and even the dairies that
distribute it is whether this type of in-school
promotion is appropriate.
"If I was a parent, I would be concerned about what was
being marketed to my child on my milk carton," said Erie
schools Superintendent Jim Barker. "This is a very
subtle way of bringing very powerful messages into
schools and putting them in front of kids."
Promoting milk is a good thing, according to Meadow
Brook Dairy and school district officials, but
advertising for outside companies is not. A
representative from Dean Foods, Meadow Brook's parent
company, announced Thursday that it is looking into
phasing out all Build-a-Bear ads on the cartons that
they distribute because they object to the content being
"What we liked about the other ones was it was a direct
message to drink milk, and this one was one step away
from what we don't want," said Marguerite Copel, vice
president of communications for Dean Foods.
The Build-a-Bear cartons promote the Web site
www.buildabearville.com, where students are encouraged
to log on and sign up for an online pet. A special code
is listed on cartons that rewards students with free
virtual milk cartons for their pets.
"We certainly don't want any advertising that is asking
someone to buy something or give information. That's
certainly very inappropriate," said Jim Twerdok,
director of food services for the Erie School District.
Long said the Web site is completely kid-friendly and
complies to the Children's Online Privacy Protection
Act, which requires they do not request and do not get
any personal information about a child unless they have
parental consent or are older than 13 and consent to
The promotions are managed by a partnership between Dean
Foods and Meadow Brook, MilkMedia and MilkRocks and the
packaging company Evergreen, Long said. The Erie School
District does not receive any profit.
Long and MilkRocks spokesman Erik Stein said the
MilkRocks program has reached more than 24 million
students per day and has always received positive
feedback since it started in September.
Denise Vanderstraeten, the mother of a fifth-grader at
Harding Elementary School, said children are regularly
exposed to a lot of advertising and that advertising
milk doesn't bother her.
"I personally don't care as long as it's kid-friendly,"
Laurie Brady agrees that milk should be required in
schools, but doesn't like that her children are targeted
at school where she can't regulate what they are shown.
"I'm just surprised there are ads, even if it does have
to do with milk," said Brady, the parent of two Harding
Brady, who runs an in-home day-care center, said she
isn't sure if she supports or opposes the program since
the main promotion is for milk.
"If a child's toy is trying to promote milk, I guess
that's OK," she said.
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