A simple way to cut calories and sugar is to watch what you’re drinking. The increasing numbers of children with obesity is causing much concern and there is a eager search for a solution. Concerned parents and teachers of the PTA turned to banning chocolate milk to lower their children’s sugar intake. As a sample test 11 elementary schools in Oregon banned flavored milk (strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, herby referred to as chocolate milk). Research released by Cornell University this week was conducted in-order to understand the potential impact of removing chocolate milk has on milk sales and intake, which concluded that removing chocolate milk from schools had a ill affect on children’s meals.
Schools have done this before. In 2011, Los Angeles Unified School District removed flavored milk from its schools in order to battle youth obesity. It is known that this may not be a successful way to combat childhood obesity. In 2012 after the US Department of Agriculture updated school meal standards, the National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jerry Kozak cited other research that showed milk consumption can drop 35 percent when flavored milk options are removed.
“When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires. On average, milk sales drop by 10 percent, 29 percent of white milk gets thrown out, and participation in the school lunch program may also decrease,” reports Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This is probably not what parents wanted to see.”
Though it was shown in sales data that students did substitute chocolate milk for plain milk, they also wasted an average on 40.9% of milk they selected. Students were forced to chose another drink option by eliminating the availability of chocolate milk, but this did not encourage them to drink it. Cornell’s findings suggests that eliminating chocolate milk can increase total milk waste by 29.4%
Children, and adults alike, do not choose foods because they are nutritionally good for them, they choose foods that taste good. Of the students who purchase lunches served as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), two-thirds choose chocolate over white milk.
These results are from a pilot test and further research must be done, but it does provide us with some insight of what some of the unforeseen affects are of getting rid of flavored milk in schools. This information needs to be considered when deciding whether the amount of sugar children consume with flavored milk is validated because of the nutrients that milk offers. The study authors suggest taking other tactics to encourage white milk over chocolate, rather than an outright ban.