(NewsNation/WHTM) — Got milk? Flavored milks like chocolate or strawberry may no longer be allowed in some schools under a federal proposal.
The USDA is looking to change some aspects of school meals for children, including a focus on reducing sugar and salt intake.
One of the proposed standards would only allow flavored milk at school lunches and breakfasts for high school students, meaning it would be cut as an option for elementary and middle school students.
Why the emphasis on flavored milk? It seems to boil down to added sugars, which can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“Those added sugars and flavor change the taste, but they also can add additional calories and additional sugar that most adults and kids don’t need,” UPMC Dietician Moira Spotts said.
Local dairy farmers in Central Pennsylvania are pushing back against the proposal.
“Trying to take something that tastes so good for kids out of schools, especially kids who depend on it, really hurts everybody,” third-generation Cumberland County dairy farmer Amy Brickner said.
But the USDA’s proposal cites an advocacy group’s findings that flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in school breakfasts and lunches.
Dr. Anthony Harris, CEO, and medical director at HFit Health, says the topic of flavored milk has been a divided issue for some parents and pediatricians for more than two decades. Harris believes there are both pros and cons to be considered when discussing the matter.
“If we look at some of the pros, we know that a population of kids depend on school lunches for nutrition and vitamin D, one of the most common deficiencies in children, as well as calcium. One of the most common deficiencies is something that is addressed in fortified milk such as chocolate milk (…) Another pro is that chocolate milk increases the consumption of milk in schools,” Harris said during an appearance on “NewsNation Now.”
On the other hand, Harris explained: “If we flip to the con side, it’s all about childhood obesity and decreasing the amount of sugars and calories that children are consuming. Chocolate milk has been one of those factors in the high caloric intake of children.”
As for his personal opinion, Harris says he supports having chocolate milk in schools for nutritional purposes.
“As a father of a six-year-old who loves chocolate milk, I do support chocolate milk in school because again, nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. School nutrition is only one factor. Parents still own the onus of making sure that we are getting good nutrition to our children,” Harris said.
If the proposed standard is implemented, the USDA says the change would be introduced in a “gradual, phased-in approach.”