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Banning chocolate milk from schools may cause problems

A young girl enjoying some delicious chocolate milk

Kids love chocolate milk and yet problems have been arising due to suggestions to ban this tasty drink from schools. PLOS One reported on the consequences of banning chocolate milk in school cafeterias on April 16, 2014. It has been observed that removing chocolate milk from school cafeterias may lower calorie and sugar consumption while also leading students to take and drink less milk overall.

Cornell University Food and Brand Lab reports that banning chocolate milk in school cafeterias lowers sales and increases waste. Chocolate milk is a favorite choice for many kids eating school lunch. There could therefore be negative consequences from banning chocolate milk from school cafeterias. Andrew Hanks, PhD has said with chocolate milk bans in schools students take 10 percent less milk while wasting 29 percent more. Some of these kids may even stop eating school meals.

Researchers for the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs have reported
on results from data which they collected at 11 Oregon elementary schools where chocolate milk had been banned from the cafeterias and has been replaced with skim milk. Although this policy eliminated the added sugar in chocolate milk, there were nutritional and economic backlashes in dealing with this matter.

The study found that eliminating chocolate milk from the elementary schools lowered total milk sales by 10 percent. This finding indicated that many students substituted white for chocolate milk. However, although more students were taking white milk it was found they wasted 29 percent more than before.

From a nutritional perspective it was found after the milk substitution students on average consumed less sugar and fewer calories. However, students also consumed less protein and calcium. Furthermore, the ban is conjectured to have been a factor in a 7 percent decrease in the lunch program participation.

Although removing chocolate flavored milk from cafeterias decreases added sugar it is clear the economic and nutritional costs justify a consideration of a less restrictive policy. Nicole Zammit, who is a former Assistance Director of Nutrition Services at Eugene School District, says she was not surprised that banning chocolate milk had negative consequences.

Zammit suggests that in consideration of the objective of the federal school meal program to provide nutritious meals to students who may otherwise not have access to healthy foods she would not recommend banning flavored milk until there is a comprehensive plan in place to compensate for the lost nutrients when kids stop drinking milk altogether. Zammit's suggestion is worthy of careful consideration.

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