Student Well-Being

Chocolate Milk Almost Accidentally Banned in Connecticut Schools

By Evie Blad — May 16, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Friday he doesn’t support language in a bill that would inadvertently effectively ban chocolate milk in the Nutmeg State’s schools. His comments came after the proposal set off a swirl of conversation in school nutrition circles.

An education bill, approved by both chambers of the legislature this week included nutritional requirements for beverages sold at “school stores, vending machines, school cafeterias, and any fundraising activities on school premises” that largely mimic those included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Smart Snacks at School” competitive food rules and include some additional language. Those rules will go into effect July. The Connecticut bill would allow for “Low-fat milk or skimmed milk that may be flavored, but [contain] contains no artificial sweeteners, non-nutritive sweetening agents, sugar alcohols, added sodium, and no more than four grams of sugar per ounce.”

The problem? While milk contains naturally occurring sodium, only chocolate milk has added salt. For example, the standard lunchroom carton of fat-free chocolate milk sold by Illinois dairy Prairie Farms contains 180 mg of sodium and lists added salt as an ingredient, according to nutrition facts listed online.

So what’s the big deal? Why not ban chocolate milk in schools, whether or not it was an intentional effect of the bill? We’re trying to make kids healthier and cut back on obesity anyway, right? If you’re familiar with school lunch wars, you understand that these questions are super-charged with controversy. About 70 percent of milk sold in schools is flavored, and the most popular flavor is chocolate.

Folks like British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who favors overhauling most aspects of school food, argue that flavored milk, which contains added sugars, shouldn’t be served in schools. “Milk is a great source of nutrients for kids, but the flavored varieties have more calories, are highly processed and contain unnecessary sugars and additives which don’t add any nutritional value,” a handout from Oliver’s Food Revolution says.

But others, including the American Dairy Council, argue that banning chocolate milk would lead to less milk consumption all together, which would mean fewer important nutrients for kids who demand added cocoa if they’re going to consume dairy. “Flavored milk can help children meet their nutrient needs, and can help children consume the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended daily servings of dairy,” according to a question-and-answer sheet by the Dairy Council. “Even though bans on flavored milk have been well intentioned, they may have done more nutritional harm than good.”

The Dairy Council, of course, represents folks with a profit motive, but some more objective research has demonstrated that kids are more likely to drink milk if it’s flavored. That includes a study released in April by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. Some nutrition advocates say schools should still ban chocolate milk and work to compensate for any lost dairy consumption in other parts of their meals. Cornell is also home to the Smarter Lunchrooms movement, which has found ways to encourage sales of plain milk. Placing white milk as the first choice in coolers resulted in an increase of up to 46 percent in white milk sales, Cornell’s researchers found.

It’s unclear exactly how the sodium requirement made its way into the Connecticut legislation. Some Connecticut media attributed it to lawmakers’ desire to comply with federal standards created as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. But those requirements allow for chocolate milk as long as it’s fat-free, and they don’t include any sodium limits.

Photo: Different flavored milk cartons display their nutritional content values, from left: artificially strawberry flavored, lowfat 1% Milk, and chocolate fat free are displayed at the Belmont Senior High cafeteria in Los Angeles in 2011. Damian Dovarganes/AP-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Educators, Be Future-Ready, But Don’t Ignore the Present
Being ready for what lies ahead is important, but we also need to gain a better understanding of the here and now.
5 min read
shutterstock 226918177
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Prioritize Student Well-Being This Year
Use the Student Thriving Index to find out where your kids stand. Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Supporting Teachers & Students
In this Spotlight, evaluate your district and what supports your schools offer, assess attendance policies to avoid burnout, and more
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Hospitalizations Spike Under Delta, Particularly in Low-Vaccination States
Nationwide, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to COVID-19 has ballooned nearly tenfold since midsummer, new CDC data show.
2 min read
hopital stethescope 1222194507
Aleksandr Titov/iStock/Getty