“Chocolate milk faces potential school ban,” rang out the headlines in the May 16, 2023, edition of The Wall Street Journal. How could that take place?
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) potential ban on flavored milk centers on added sugar. The decision would impact some 30 million school children who participate in government-led school meal programs. In past experiences when individual states banned flavored milk, dairy product consumption was cut in half.
That potential cut in milk consumption is a serious concern for children who are in a major growth phase. Milk is important for strong bones and dental health. In addition to serving as a primary dietary source of calcium and Vitamin D, milk offers a portfolio of 13 essential nutrients including protein and potassium.
“What are we trying to prove?” asked 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 say, ‘You can’t drink this, you have to drink plain?’” she asked in the article written by Kristina Peterson.
Knowing this could be a looming issue within the USDA hierarchy, 37 school milk processors, representing more than 90% of the school milk volume in the U.S., jumped ahead of USDA’s proposed guidelines with a Healthy School Milk Commitment. This pledge will offer nutritious school milk options with no more than 10 grams of added sugar per eight-ounce serving by the 2025 to 2026 school year.
Flavored milk is important to encourage children to make healthy choices. In a Morning Consult poll that included over 500 parents with school-age children, over 90% of parents expressed agreement that nonfat or low-fat flavored milk should remain an option in public schools in their community.
USDA had held off making a recommendation on flavored milk when releasing its proposed school meal guidelines earlier this year. It appears USDA and Cindy Long, administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, have inched closer to making a final recommendation.