BOSTON, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- A new outreach program announced today by the Boston Public Schools and HP Hood will feature Boston Celtics Co-captain Paul Pierce and teammate Walter McCarty in an initiative to raise awareness of lactose intolerance as part of an overall nutrition education campaign. The program features Pierce and McCarty in public service advertising, educational materials, and presentations aimed at educating Boston school children and their parents about lactose intolerance and its management, as well as other nutrition information. As part of this program, the Boston Public Schools have increased the availability of lactose-free milk. It is believed to be the first program of its kind in the United States. Approximately 25 percent of American adults have some difficulty consuming milk and other dairy products because they have trouble digesting lactose, the main sugar found naturally in dairy products. This condition, referred to as lactose "intolerance" or "maldigestion", is most common in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics-groups that make up the majority of students in Boston's public schools. People who suffer upset stomachs because they have trouble digesting lactose often avoid all dairy products, thereby depriving themselves of calcium and other essential nutrients. The new campaign, which kicks off today with an appearance by Paul Pierce and Walter McCarty at a Nutrition Fair at the Sarah Greenwood School in Dorchester, will feature radio spots by Paul Pierce. In addition, Boston Public School students will receive colorful book covers, a healthy snack guide and pledge card, posters, and wallet cards that provide information on lactose intolerance and healthy eating. Middle school students who take a healthy eating pledge will be eligible to win a special school visit from Paul Pierce. Parents, school nurses, and food service professionals have also received informational literature developed by HP Hood in consultation with the Boston Public Schools. "We know it's vital for children to eat right and stay fit, and it's wonderful that the public and private sectors have come together to launch this important health initiative," said Mayor Thomas Menino. "We know there is a nutrition crisis among kids," said David Mulligan, chairman of the Boston Public Health Commission. "According to USDA studies, only 4 in 10 children eat enough calcium-rich foods. If milk gives you a stomachache, you're not going to drink it. That's why we're very excited about this new program to educate the community about lactose maldigestion. We hope that this program will ensure that any child who has trouble digesting regular milk will choose lactose-free, Lactaid milk and other calcium-rich foods." Boston is believed to be the first city in the country to address lactose intolerance in a systematic way. "This program should serve as a model for other cities and towns who want to improve the health and nutrition of children in their schools," Mulligan added. While other foods supply calcium, it is difficult for most people -- especially children -- to eat the amounts of those foods necessary to get enough calcium. "Vegetables like broccoli do contain calcium, but most of the calcium is in a form that cannot be absorbed by the body," explained Debra Korzec-Ramirez, M.S., R.D., nutrition education coordinator of the Boston Public Schools. "And milk provides vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, and other bone-building nutrients that other foods don't." HP Hood President, Chairman and CEO John Kaneb has a personal interest in the subject, because two of his grandchildren have difficulty digesting lactose. "When HP Hood was named the milk supplier to the Boston Public Schools in 2000-2002, we made a commitment to work with the schools and the city to help address this issue among students," said Kaneb. "We have learned that many families and many children were unaware of the availability of lactose-free milk in schools and the importance of consuming calcium-rich foods. This campaign is designed to provide information about these important health and nutrition issues in ways that kids will understand." To increase the appeal of lactose-free milk to schoolchildren and remove any reluctance to drink a "different" kind of milk, Hood, with input from Boston school children, designed two new eight-ounce Lactaid Milk containers that feature bright colors and a "cool cow" in sunglasses. The two new varieties - low fat chocolate and low fat white Lactaid milk - offer maximum taste appeal to children while supplying just as much calcium, protein, and vitamins and minerals as regular milk. "As an athlete, I know how important eating right and staying fit is," said Paul Pierce. "I also know that lactose intolerance is a concern for many, particularly African-Americans and other ethnic minorities. I've become particularly aware of this because my friend and teammate, Walter McCarty, is lactose intolerant. We're very enthusiastic about getting the word out to Boston kids about this important issue." Walter McCarty noted that many young people assume they need to stay away from dairy products if they have trouble digesting lactose. "By eliminating milk and other dairy foods from their diets, kids are missing out on the nutrition their growing bodies need to develop right and stay healthy-not to mention the enjoyment of eating those foods," he said. "I'm excited about talking to kids first-hand about this issue." Lactose-free Lactaid Milk, manufactured by HP Hood for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a Johnson & Johnson company, is farm-fresh milk that contains all of the same nutrients as regular milk, including calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamin D. However, Lactaid contains a lactase enzyme that breaks down the lactose so the milk can be more easily digested. Founded in 1846 by Harvey Perley Hood, HP Hood, Inc., is the Northeast's premier processor, marketer, and distributor of dairy, extended shelf life dairy, frozen desserts, citrus, non-dairy, and specialty food products. The John A. Kaneb family, principals of the Catamount Companies headquartered in Chelsea, Massachusetts, became the third owners of HP Hood when they acquired the company from Agway, Inc. in December of 1995.
SOURCE HP Hood