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Milk: A Comfort Food

Got Milk?  I certainly did.  In fact, throughout my unstable upbringing, milk was one of the few constants I could grow to rely on.

I was raised with three siblings by our mother, who worked as a teacher and guidance counselor.  Although we were able to live comfortably in a mobile home, with a yard in the front and a garden in the back, it was often difficult for us to afford food.

I remember shopping at discount grocery stores for expiring and dented canned food.  I remember visiting WIC when my younger brother and sister were born.  I remember food stamps.  I remember only being allowed to get certain generic foods. I remember being hungry.

I grew up eating school lunch. It was something I could rely on.  Every school day I could look forward to a basic meal and a carton of chocolate milk.  I remember the Got Milk posters on the cafeteria walls going through the lunch line.  I remember the food pyramid and eating grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and milk.

GAMD_Milk Need_1 Milk became a comfort food for me.  Even at home, when we did not have other foods available, milk was always in the refrigerator.  I had it with cereal for breakfast, and often dinner, snack, and dessert as well.  When I was thirsty and hungry, I often just drank it right out of the jug, to the chagrin of my mother.  When were able to make a nice meal of spaghetti with marinara sauce and canned green beans, it was not complete unless it was finished with a glass of 2%.

Dairy is a wonderfully nutritious food, particularly for growing children.  It contains calcium and other minerals to build our bones and teeth, complete protein for our muscles and organs, and energy for our growing bodies and brain.  Combine it with whole grain pastas, beans, canned vegetables, and fortified cereals, and it provides a nutritionally complete diet with an inexpensive price tag.  Even with my family’s small budget and growing family, we were able to eat healthfully with the gracious food assistance programs available.

Now a decade later, and I am finishing school to become a dietitian.  I am now in a position to go back into the community and help people in similar situations that I was in as a child.  I have been working with elementary schools, homeless shelters, and the Boys & Girls Club.  Seeing different people around the community, particularly children, reminds me of my childhood and the emotions I felt then.  I know everyone’s situation is different, and it is always an emotional experience to hear what food means to each person.

gamd-donation-bugThis semester I chose to intern with Idaho Dairy Council, an organization within United Dairymen of Idaho.  They do tremendous work around the community and the state educating the public and supporting dairy’s place in our diet.  They provide education curriculum to schools and offer numerous funding opportunities to schools promoting nutrition, fitness, and health.  They collaborate with local initiatives to help low-income children, such as the Idaho Summit on Hunger and Food Security, and Let’s Move Boise.  These are the kinds of efforts that can reach kids and support health in this critical period of their lives.

Looking back I feel nothing but gratitude for the presence of milk throughout my childhood.  I am physically and mentally healthy today because of my diet growing up, and dairy was an integral part of that.  For the rest of my life, I will look at a glass of milk and feel reminded of the comfort and nutritious value it has provided me and can provide to others as well.

-Jeremiah Dubie, University of Idaho Dietetic Intern