Holy Cow! Florida May Ban Chocolate Milk From Schools
Forget the mystery meat and excessive quantities of ranch dressing. There's a new villain emerging in your child's cafeteria: Chocolate milk.
A recent move by Florida educators to ban chocolate milk from its lunch menus is likely to cause ripples in lunchrooms across the country, reigniting The Great Chocolate Milk Debate.
For parents who need a primer: The debate that has divided educators, parents and food industry types, centers on whether kids should be allowed to drink sugar-laden chocolate milk to get the calcium and other nutritional benefits they need, or if it's best to ban the lunchtime classic.
On Sept. 22, the Florida Board of Education agreed to move ahead with its plans to ban flavored milk and other sugary beverages from school cafeterias, according to The Orlando Sentinel. The board will make its final decision on Dec. 17, after seeking advice from physicians and other researchers. Under the plan, high schools would be allowed to sell diet sodas and other low-calorie, low-sugar drinks in place of chocolate milk.
Florida's dairy dilemma is an example of a discussion playing out across the country, as educators try to reconcile two concerns: Childhood obesity and insufficient calcium intake. Florida is following the lead of several other school districts who have banned chocolate milk. Washington D.C. schools banned chocolate milk last month, as did the Boulder Valley School District in Louisville and Boulder, Colo., last year.
As schools have gradually been eliminating soda machines from their cafeterias to battle childhood obesity, a growing chorus of food activists has shifted its focus to chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milks, which account for more than 70 percent of school milk consumption, according to the Los Angeles Times, which last month reported the pros and cons of the chocolate milk debate.
Florida Board of Education member John Padget has been pressing his colleagues for a year to cut out most beverages besides water, pure juice and white, low fat milk to help fight childhood obesity, the Sentinel reports.
"When you think about it, we probably have a million overweight or obese children in our schools," Padget tells the Sentinel. "I think the clock is ticking in terms of personal health."
One reason the board chose to move forward was the realization that the federal government may take years to revamp its rules on what foods should and shouldn't be allowed to be sold in elementary, middle and high schools, Padget tells the newspaper.
Face your own mixed feelings on chocolate milk? Last year, the National Dairy Council launched a half million dollar campaign in support of chocolate milk, listing these reasons for kids to keep on chugging it at school:
- It provides nutrients essential for good health and kids will drink more when it's flavored.
- Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk and is a healthful alternative to soft drinks.
- Drinking low fat or fat free white or flavored milk helps kids get the three daily servings of milk recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and provides three of the five "nutrients of concern" that children do not get enough of -- calcium, potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamin D.
- Children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs, do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.
- Low fat chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and kids drink less milk (and get fewer nutrients) if it's taken away.
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