Chocolate milk might be the most popular choice for school lunch -- not to mention milk bubbles and milk mustaches. But soon it will be no choice at all in Minneapolis public schools.
Starting with summer school, the district is eliminating chocolate milk as a lunch option to reduce the calories and sugar that students consume.
The administrative decision follows elimination of French fries from high school menus last year and a switch from breaded chicken patties to grilled chicken filets this year.
"Consuming chocolate milk every day can train a child's palate toward sweetened foods," said Rosemary Dederichs, the district's director of nutrition services. The decision is opposed by the Midwest Dairy Association, a trade group of 11,000 dairy farms. While applauding the focus on health, the association noted that chocolate milk sold in Minneapolis schools has less sugar than other versions and only 20 calories more than a carton of 1-percent-fat milk.
In addition, research funded by the dairy industry shows that bans on chocolate milk are counterproductive. Children who switch to white milk end up throwing more away and getting less calcium and Vitamin D, said Carolyn Hudson, a dietitian with Midwest Dairy. "If the kids don't drink it," she said, "they won't get it."
Liz Kinney says her children, 6 and 8, will grumble when they find no chocolate milk at Lake Harriet Elementary School. But their mother is OK with that. "I would be delighted if they took chocolate milk off the menu," she said. "In our family, it is usually a big treat to get it at home, so I don't like that they can get it anytime they like at school."
Lynn Borden wasn't so sure. She said her son will be "totally crushed" and that she opposes the ban because the chocolate milk served in Minneapolis is low-fat.
Today, chocolate milk makes up 60 percent of the district's lunchtime milk sales. (It had already banned chocolate milk from its breakfast program.) The question is whether students will substitute high-sugar juices or drinks from home, or settle for white milk at school.
"While we recognize that some children may no longer choose to drink milk at school, we believe that the decision was made in the best interest of our students," said Dederichs. She noted that even skim chocolate milk has 8 grams more sugar per serving than 1 percent or skim cartons. The district's chocolate milk also contains high-fructose corn syrup.
Not everyone views chocolate milk as bad. Runners, in particular, seek it after distance events because it provides protein and carbohydrate recovery for tired muscles. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups also support chocolate milk in schools because of studies showing that flavored-milk drinkers consume more milk than do youths who drink white milk only.
The Minneapolis schools aren't alone in proposing a chocolate milk ban. Similar moves have been considered in Los Angeles and Florida. Kathy Seipp said her fifth-grade daughter won't care -- "she's a water girl" -- but her second-grade son at Lake Harriet will be sad. She sympathized with him, because she doesn't like plain milk, either. "The only way I like white milk,'' she said, "is in my coffee."
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744