Crying Over Flavored Milk

Schools and dairy industry at odds over chocolate milk

By Matt Bartosik
|  Friday, Nov 13, 2009  |  Updated 1:25 PM CDT
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mmm, chocolate milk.

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Got milk? Of course, schools say.

Got chocolate milk? Maybe not.

Kids can be picky eaters, and sometimes parents are willing to reach a compromise in order to get children to ingest something healthy. For example, they might coat vegetables with cheese or smother turkey meatloaf with sugary ketchup.

That compromise is what the dairy industry is counting on as it rolls out an expensive media campaign promoting chocolate milk. Advertisements say that, without sugary flavorings (like chocolate or strawberry), many kids won't drink regular white milk and won't get the healthy benefits.

Some educators and nutritionists argue though that kids get too much sugar already, so schools shouldn't be supplying them with even more.

Ann Cooper, a nutrition expert from Colorado, estimates that the 40 to 60 extra calories in chocolate milk could cause a child to gain up to 5 pounds during a school year.

Take away the sweet temptation, and kids will happily drink white milk, says Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

"I don't believe children are going to go on a thirst strike and refuse to drink anything," she said.

But according to kids in Barrington Community Unit School District 220, students were turning to juices and sodas—neither of which have milk's nutrients—when flavored milks were banned from lunch menus this past school year.

"Kids weren't drinking the white milk," said Haley Morris, 10, according to the Chicago Tribune. "It's better to have the chocolate milk than nothing."

Morris, becoming quite the young activist. She actually collected over 70 petition signatures from students, asking for the return of flavored milk. While chocolate or strawberry milk might have more sugar than regular milk—about 3 teaspoons per 8 ounces—Morris pointed out that the juices and sodas kids were drinking had even more sugar.

"All of my friends and I, we just wanted chocolate milk back to drink because we like chocolate milk better than white," Morris said.

The district's superintendent, Tom Leonard, reached a compromise with the students. Flavored milk is being served on Fridays on a trial basis. With the help of a few researchers who heard about the experiment, the district is collecting data through January to determine the fate of chocolate milk in schools.

Matt Bartosik, sitting on the throne of social media royalty, put a little too much sugar in his coffee today.

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