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Let kids have their chocolate milkLet kids have their chocolate milk

New York City’s proposed ban on chocolate milk is out of touch with reality.

March 22, 2022

4 Min Read
New York Mayor Eric Adam
NO MILK FAN: Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, has no qualms about being referred to as the “first vegan mayor” in the U.S. But does he have a right to deprive schoolchildren of chocolate milk just because he prefers to be vegan?Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

I have nothing against anyone who is vegan. That may upset some of you reading this column. Sorry if you’re offended.

What someone puts in their mouth is their choice, plain and simple. It’s none of my business.

But I do have a problem with people who try to force their decisions on others, especially children. Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, is one of those people.

He is vegan. In fact, he has no qualms about being called America’s “first vegan mayor.” He recently took office as mayor and, according to news reports, wants chocolate milk taken off school lunch menus.

“We’re having a conversation about, should we have chocolate, high-sugar milk in our schools? Now, I’m not going to become nanny mayor. But we do need to have our children have options,” Adams said in January. Politico attributed the quote to him in a March 4 article about the issue.

Hmm. Options. You want to eliminate chocolate milk, but then turn around and say you want students to have options? I’m a little confused. With all the other responsibilities he has running the nation’s largest city, you have to question why banning chocolate milk in schools is a top priority.

Regardless, there is a world outside New York City. In that world, milk, especially whole milk, has seen a renaissance the past couple of years. I live a few miles from dairy farmer Nelson Troutman, the “97% Milk” guy, who’s been on a crusade to revitalize whole milk using painted hay bales.

Congress is even considering expanding access to flavored milk in schools. Nearly all of New York state’s congressional representatives are in support of it — Democrat and Republican. In a March 8 letter to Adams signed by nine New York state representatives, they cited studies that have shown reducing or eliminating the availability of flavored milk in schools leads to overall decreased milk consumption and increased food waste.

“In fact, a study of Oregon schools by Cornell found total daily milk sales declined by 9.9% when flavored milk was removed from the cafeteria and was associated with 6.8% fewer students eating lunch,” the letter reads. “When flavored milk was returned to the Los Angeles Unified School District after a five-year ban, there was a 78% reduction in milk waste. In addition, there was an increase in the number of school lunches served. Studies have also shown that flavored milk consumption is not associated with weight gain or even a higher total daily sugar intake in children.”

Andy Novakovic, retired professor of ag economics at Cornell, says that based on current minimum dietary guidelines for the federal school lunch program, chocolate milk is a fine choice.

“Current guidelines specify two key requirements,” he said. ‘First, every meal offered to a student must include milk [dairy milk, from cows]. Second, either white or chocolate milks may be served, but they must be either nonfat or low-fat (1%). A number of school districts have considered eliminating the offering of chocolate milk, not because of fat content but rather because of sugar content.

“The 2020 Dietary Guidelines makes several notable statements concerning milk consumption, all of which are based on the panel’s assessment of a consensus in the scientific literature. First, on average, almost all people, regardless of age, gender or race, consume less milk than is recommended. Second, consumption of sugar in the U.S. is excessive and should be reduced, and consumption of fats, saturated or otherwise, is primarily a concern about calories and obesity. 

"The latter leads to the recommendation for skim and low-fat milks. Whether or not the sugar used to moderate the naturally bitter taste of cocoa is a health concern can only be judged relative to a person’s entire diet. USDA guidelines strictly require all meals to conform to the overall recommendation. Within those guidelines, chocolate milk can be a reasonable choice.”

I get that in many places, including New York City, school lunch may be the only meal a child gets to eat in a day. But why deprive them of a healthy option like milk? Is plant-based “milk” really that much healthier and sustainable?

Let’s face it, plant-based “milks” must be made in a factory with lots of things added to it to make it palatable. Almonds are grown in California, so that means you must harvest them there, truck them to whatever factory they must go to, make it in the factory, and then truck it — or fly it — back to New York City. That’s quite a few miles of travel if you ask me, especially during a time when we are all supposed to reduce our carbon footprint.

There’s plenty of dairy farms around the area that can provide milk to New York City students without having to drive very far at all. Most of those dairy farms are run by hardworking families who take pride in the product they produce, and they care for their animals.

Maybe Mayor Adams should visit a modern dairy farm sometime and see for himself.

In the meantime, let the kids drink their chocolate milk.

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