In an effort to combat childhood obesity, government agencies have started to crack down on foods that the students of our nation consume. The issue even goes as high up as the White House — first lady Michelle Obama launched the "Let's Move!" campaign in 2010. Some school officials thought that one answer to this might be banning chocolate milk from elementary schools, but researchers from Cornell University found out that the restriction had negative effects.
For the study, published Wednesday in PLoS ONE, researchers took a sample of elementary school students from Oregon and examined what happened when chocolate milk was banned.
"When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires. On average, milk sales drop by 10 percent, 29 percent of white milk gets thrown out, and participation in the school lunch program may also decrease," said Andrew Hanks in a news release. "This is probably not what parents wanted to see."
Professors David Just and Brian Wansink of the study theorized why this might have happened. "Members of the school district's PTA were adamantly opposed to offering chocolate milk in the cafeterias, claiming it was as bad as soda," Hanks said. "While this policy does eliminate the added sugar in chocolate milk, it also introduces a new set of nutritional and economic consequences. Children typically don't choose foods for health, but rather for taste."
This was first discussed in 2011 when schools began fighting over the ban on chocolate milk. Seventy-one percent of milk served across the country is flavored, so many people thought this ban was necessary to get school children to start eating right.
“Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples,” said Ann Cooper, who runs the Boulder, Colo., school food program and the website chefann.com, The New York Times reported. However, chocolate-milk can contain twice as many calories as regular milk. After the milk was substituted, students did consume less calories and sugar, but they also consumed less protein and calcium.
"Instead of banning chocolate milk, make white milk appear more convenient and more 'normal,'" said Wansink, co-author and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Put the white milk in the front of the cooler, and make sure that at least one-third to half of all the milk is white. We've found that this approach can increase sales by 20 percent or more."
Source: Hanks AS, Just DR, Wansink B. A Pilot Study Evaluating the Cafeteria Consequences of Eliminating Flavored Milk. PLoS ONE. 2014.