A study published this month involving Eugene grade school students supports what every chocolate lover already knows: Don’t take away the chocolate milk.
In 2011, 11 4J elementary schools participated in a study that evaluated the effects of removing chocolate milk as a beverage choice from school lunches. After two months of chocolate milk-bereft lunches, total daily milk sales went down about 10 percent, and children threw away 29.4 percent more milk, meaning that more kids picked up the regular milk but decided not to drink it.
“That is a hot debate,” says Andrew Hanks, a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University and lead author of the paper published in the online journal PLoS One. “There has been this push to remove chocolate milk because of recommendations to limit sugar consumption.” Hanks says the USDA already limits flavored milk in schools by requiring it to be fat-free, but some parents around the country want a complete removal to help combat childhood obesity.
The 4J district lifted its ban on chocolate milk last school year, and it is now offering chocolate milk from Spring Valley Dairy twice a week, featuring a formula that has no high fructose corn syrup and less sugar than a comparable serving of apple juice, according to Keith Fiedler, director of nutrition services at 4J. He says the decision to switch back to chocolate milk stems from the dietary importance of calcium and the difficulty in attaining it through sources other than milk.
Hanks says that offering both chocolate and regular milk but placing the regular milk in a more prominent, easier-to-reach spot in the cafeteria line could help children make the transition to regular milk without feeling shortchanged. “Consumers crave convenience,” he says. “The kids who really want chocolate milk are still going to take it, but for some kids, they’ll take whatever milk is more convenient.”
Fiedler says that while the results of the study influenced the decision to bring back chocolate milk a few times a week, there are currently no plans to make regular milk easier to grab from the cafeteria cooler. — Amy Schneider