As kids head back to school, moms may find it easier to get their kids to can the soda and drink more milk with fun, plastic single-serves of milk in a variety of flavors.

Single-serve packaging is now available in grocery stores in more than 80 percent of the country, and they're showing up everywhere from school lunch lines to the latest milk mustache ad with "Malcolm in the Middle" star Frankie Muniz.

"My daughter thinks the single-serve plastic bottles of milk are really cool," said Cindy Yingling of Kenilworth, Ill., mother of nine-year-old Claire. "She asks for them at the store - especially in chocolate and strawberry. I think they're great because she can take one with her wherever she goes -- to soccer practice or out to play with her friends -- and I'd much rather have her drinking milk than soda or juice drinks."

According to Robert P. Heaney, M.D., a professor of medicine at Creighton University, Yingling is wise to be concerned about her daughter's beverage choices. "Parents should be especially concerned about the low calcium intake of kids and teens because their bones are in one of their most active growth phases," Heaney said.

"Many parents may not realize the prevention of osteoporosis should begin at an early age - nearly half of all bone is formed and about 15 percent of adult height is added during the teen years," added Heaney.

Currently, nearly nine out of 10 teen girls and almost seven out of 10 teen boys don't get enough calcium in their diets, often replacing calcium-rich milk with sugary soda. And, a recent study in the American Journal of Health found that between third and eighth grades, the contribution of soft drinks to students' total beverage consumption increases fourfold, while milk intake decreases.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends children age 9-18 consume 1,300 mg of calcium per day, the equivalent of at least four 8-oz. glasses of milk.

In addition, parents can rest at ease knowing that flavored milk, like chocolate and strawberry, has the same amount of calcium plus eight essential nutrients as white milk.

"Malcolm in the Middle" Star Takes Up the Charge

Frankie Muniz, the quirky kid star of the hit TV show "Malcolm in the Middle," is also helping moms get their kids to drink more milk with a new ad featuring a single-serve milk container. As the latest milk mustache celebrity, Muniz's ad debuts this month in popular magazines, including People, Good Housekeeping and Parents. His ad copy reads: "Want strong kids? Milk has nine essential nutrients your kids' active bodies need. Which means you'd better remember to save some for yourself."

"Moms know kids will drink what kids think is cool," said Linda Racicot, executive vice president of domestic marketing for Dairy Management Inc.TM "The milk industry is helping moms convince their kids that milk is cool by providing fun flavors, exciting packaging and ads with celebrity cache."

Schools Are Joining the Fight

Schools are beginning to recognize the importance of making milk just as available and appealing as soda to students. In fact, many schools now offer single-serve milk containers in the cafeteria, and some are installing new milk vending machines that offer single serves in a variety of fun flavors to appeal to finicky teens. There are even new vending machines offering students cookie and milk combos for a study break treat any time.

In Albuquerque Public Schools, kids can purchase milk single serves as part of the school milk program for only $.25 more than traditional half-pint cartons. This school system also offers flavored single-serve milks as an a la carte item in the cafeteria.

"We're thrilled that schools across the country are joining us to win the battle over beverage consumption to help our kids be healthier for a lifetime," said Kurt Graetzer, CEO of the Milk Processor Education Program.

The 'got milk?(R)' Milk Mustache marketing campaign is jointly funded by the nation's fluid milk processors and America's dairy farmers. The multi-faceted campaign was initiated to educate consumers and correct misconceptions about milk. A series of educational brochures for consumers is available by calling 1-800-WHY-MILK or by visiting the milk Web site at `got milk?(R)' is licensed by Dairy Management Inc.(TM) (DMI) and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board. DMI and state, regional and international organizations manage the American Dairy Association(R), the National Dairy Council(R) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council(R). The MilkPEP program was developed under the guidance of the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, an organization funded by U.S. milk processors.