The debate over healthy school lunches has shifted to chocolate milk, which has long been presented as a clever way to trick kids into drinking something that's good for them. Now some districts are banning flavored milks over their sugar content, saying they're actually promoting childhood obesity.
The Associated Press reports that Florida recently considered a statewide ban and other districts are replacing flavored milks that contain high-fructose corn syrup with brands that use sugar. (Did they learn nothing from that condescending commercial created by the Corn Refiners Association?!) The superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, the country's second-largest school district, says he's pushing to remove chocolate and strawberry milk by the next school year. Well, clearly American children are on the road to ruin if strawberry milk is on the menu. Back in my day our only options were chocolate or "white" milk — either way, you were getting thick and fatty whole milk. (There was always one kid who put in a special request for 1%, but his effort to be healthy was rewarded with plenty of snack-time bullying.)
More than 70% of the milk kids consume in school is flavored, and many say the calcium, vitamin D, and protein make the added sugar worth it. The School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association issued a join statement saying research shows kids who drink fat-free flavored milk get the nutrients they need and aren't more obese than kids who don't drink milk.
However, Ann Cooper, who has banned flavored milk as director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, says, "Chocolate milk is soda in drag ... It works as a treat in homes, but it doesn't belong in schools." Conveniently, her district didn't keep track of milk consumption after the ban was issued, but according to the Milk Processors Education Program (which certainly has no stake in the matter) consumption drops 35% when flavored milk is removed.
All parties seem horrified by this prospect, as if drinking cow's milk is the only way to get nutrients into kids' bodies. Some children can't have dairy at all, and there are plenty of other foods that contain calcium. If we're worried about keeping plain milk consumption high, just offer kids an ultimatum with spinach, brussel sprouts, and sardines as alternatives.