Chocolate Milk May Be Banned in Schools. Here’s Why.

Updated: Dec. 15, 2023

The USDA is considering a chocolate milk ban when it adopts new standard for school meals. Opinion is mixed on this long-time cafeteria favorite.

Like many of you, I spent my school years drinking chocolate milk. Just thinking about chocolate milk brings back the warm nostalgia of the school cafeteria. Every day, the lunch lady gave us a choice: red and white cartons of plain or brown cartons of chocolate. Pretty much every day from kindergarten through 12th grade, I chose the brown cartons. Most of my classmates made the same—except for a few kids who clearly had stricter parents than mine. Now, I see that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a chocolate milk ban as part of its new school lunch guidelines.

My first thought was: Can they be serious? We used to live in a society! My second thought, remembering how much sugar I consumed as a kid, was: Maybe they have a point.

Why Is the USDA Considering a Chocolate Milk Ban?

A lunch tray in the school canteen during the beginning of the roll-out of universal free school meals for primary school childrenBen Birchall - PA Images/Getty Images

The USDA is in the midst of adopting new standards for school meals, and proposed new guidelines earlier this year. The concern is over the amount of added sugars in flavored milks like chocolate or strawberry. USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study data found that flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in both the school lunch and breakfast programs, contributing almost half of the added sugars in lunches and about 30% of the added sugars in breakfasts.

According to research, More than 62% of children consumed breakfasts that exceeded the recommended dietary limit of sugar. Almost half (47%) consumed lunches that exceeded the limit, according to a study in the nutrition journal Nutrients.

So far, the USDA has made no decision on flavored milk, and is currently seeking public comment. But the agency is considering three options:

  • The first option would ban chocolate milk in elementary and middle schools, and only allow it in high schools.
  • The second would be to limit the amount of sugar that can be added to flavored milk.
  • The last option would be to do nothing and continue to allow flavored milks.

There has been no discussion of perhaps offering alternative non-dairy milks in schools.

How Do People Feel About Banning Chocolate Milk?

Opinions are divided on the issue. People in favor of banning flavored milk in school say the added sugars contribute to childhood obesity and condition kids to desire for overly sweet drinks. Others (including the dairy industry and many school administrators) say that banning flavored milk will only result in kids drinking less milk. The Wall Street Journal quoted Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, which represents 18 of the largest school districts in the country: “We want to take a product that most kids like and that has nine essential nutrients in it and say, ‘You can’t drink this, you have to drink plain’? What are we trying to prove?”

Erica Lauren Kenney, a public health and nutrition professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Journal: “From a public health perspective, it makes a lot of sense to try to limit the servings of these flavored milks because they do have quite a lot of added sugar.”

This might be an issue of nostalgia versus public health research. How do you feel about flavored milk in schools?

These Copycat Cafeteria Recipes Will Take You Back
1 / 39