Home > Federal Power > Removing chocolate milk from school lunch wasn’t such a good idea after all

Removing chocolate milk from school lunch wasn’t such a good idea after all

May 9, 2014

Gerald_G_Fast_Food_Drinks_(FF_Menu)_2During the 2012 school year a series of federal mandates were being implement regarding school lunch standards. In December I briefly mentioned these mandates and a bill sponsored by Rep Noem (HR 3663) to deal with this overreach by the Department Agriculture. At that time I also passed on the report from my 3rd grade son after his class had a visit from Kristi Noem. Chocolate milk being taken out of the lunchroom was a topic one of the third graders brought up to Rep Noem. And since that time my son has asked me at least once a week a variation of the same question: “Has Kristi Noem gotten chocolate milk back for us yet?” This post is my attempt to keep my son and his third grade pals updated on the subject.

Unfortunately Rep Noem’s bill has made no traction. And even though the Department Agriculture ‘eased up’ on its regulations, no real headway has been made to return local control back to school lunch rooms. This means many schools are still unable to serve chocolate milk.

Before going on I will say that technically the new regulations didn’t outright ban chocolate milk. But since the guidelines were so restrictive on sugar intake,  many lunch programs chose to lose chocolate milk to give more flexibility in the rest of their menu plan. The belief apparently being that drinking a carton of chocolate milk during lunch will lead to childhood obesity.

But now there is an interesting paper released by the PLOS One Journal showing that removing chocolate milk from schools may have been bad policy with unintended consequences. Here is a summary of the paper from Medical News Today (MNT):

In a recent article published in PLOS ONE, researchers for the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (B.E.N. Center), reported results from data collected at 11 Oregon elementary schools where chocolate milk had been banned from the cafeterias and replaced with skim milk. While this policy eliminated the added sugar in chocolate milk, there were unexpected nutritional and economic backlashes.

The new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study by Andrew Hanks, David Just, and Brian Wansink, found that eliminating chocolate milk from the elementary schools decreased total milk sales by 10%, indicating that many students substituted white for chocolate milk. Even though more students were taking white milk, they wasted 29% more than before. Nutritionally, after the milk substitution, students on average consumed less sugar and fewer calories, but also consumed less protein and calcium. Additionally, the ban may have been a factor in a 7% decrease in District’s Lunch Program participation.

Huh? Who would have guessed that children like the taste of chocolate milk and would turn down healthy alternatives? This is one of those times I would probably let me son get away with saying “well duh, everyone knows that!”

Supposedly these new regulations were put in place to make kids eat healthier. But now we find out what many parents could have told the regulators at the Department of Agriculture: kids will eat more when their food (or drink) tastes better. This is nothing new. The PLOS study results probably comes as a surprise to nobody outside of the Department of Agriculture.

Perhaps it is time for the Department of Agriculture to look at its misguided regulations and instead focus on non-mandated guidelines for school lunch programs. Or better yet, Congress should support Noem’s bill and tell the Department of Agriculture that their overreach into local control is not appreciated. Either way something has to be done.

This issue goes beyond chocolate milk. At the heart of this issue is centralized bureaucrats in DC trying to implement a one-size-fits-all approach to the nutrition needs of all school lunch cafeterias around the country. Do we really want to trust the health of our children to those with a political agenda? Or would we as parents rather trust our local school districts to create meal plans that kids will enjoy to eat and still have nutritional value. I know I support our local school lunch program administrators and hope most other parents do as well.

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    May 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Skim mild tastes like contaminated water. I can’t get it down myself.

  2. May 12, 2014 at 5:52 am

    The question that I have asked, but have not received an answer to, is what are children eating before they go to school? School lunch is needed, but it should not have to be the main meal of the day. If children and teens are not eating enough before they go to school, that is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    BTW, I have been drinking skim milk for decades. Whole milk, even low fat milk is disgusting, it is like drinking a glass full of liquid fat. It is all a matter of what we are used to.

    Kids want chocolate milk, yes, most do. Are they allowed to bring a teaspoon of chocolate mix in a baggie that they can pour into the milk served at school?

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I actually agree that what kids have for breakfast is just as important. I can’t find it now, but a while back there was a study showing that a large percentage of school kids have little or no breakfast. That is part of the reason the Dept of Ag nutrition changes affected so many poor families harder. Unfortunately for many kids it is their meal at school that gives them most of their protein for the day. There are programs out there to help those families, but I’m not sure how successful they are or if anyone really knows about them.

  3. May 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Hi there, You’ve performed a fantastic job.

    I’ll certainly digg it and individually suggest to
    my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  1. May 13, 2014 at 10:47 am
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: