The Tempe Elementary School District in Arizona is the latest district to ban chocolate milk, and the New York City Department of Education could be among the next to cut the drink from school menus in an effort to make school lunches healthier, District Administration reports.
Tempe parents haven’t voiced complaints about the chocolate milk ban, but some New Yorkers aren't happy about it and say the ban would hurt dairy farmers. Those opposed are also citing research claiming chocolate milk helps students reach recommended daily vitamin levels.
- Washington, D.C.; Rochester, NY; Minnesota and San Francisco schools have already banned flavored milk, while Detroit and Los Angeles have reinstated it following prior bans.
Districts are on the right track when searching for ways to improve nutrition and cut the sugar content of school lunches. A study led by the Yale School of Public Health shows school policies and programs can reduce the obesity levels of students, showing students who attended schools with healthy school lunch policies had lower average BMIs than those who didn’t.
The study looked at schools with policies that made sure all school meals met federal guidelines, and nutrition information was shared with parents and students. Water was encouraged as the beverage of choice over sugary drinks.
As part of the "Let’s Move!" program, former first lady Michelle Obama championed a school lunch overhaul that would reduce the amount of sugar, sodium and fat in food sold at schools. More whole grains, fruits and vegetables were served, and whole and low-fat flavored milk were prohibited.
The rules on sodium and flavored milk are easing under the Trump administration, but some states are pushing back. A group of states, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, recently sued U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue over changes to the school lunch program, saying that relaxing the rules ignores research and can contribute to childhood obesity.
Whether chocolate milk is harmful or helpful is up for debate. Some medical professionals tout chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes because it provides fluid and electrolytes, is a good source of protein, and replenishes carbohydrates and necessary vitamins.
The downside is that chocolate milk does have added sugar and sometimes contains high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient that has been linked to obesity and diabetes.