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New Cornell Study Says Banning Chocolate Milk in Schools ‘Backfires’

Apr 16, 2014

New Cornell University research shows that removing chocolate milk from school cafeterias may have negative consequences. The study shows that while the removal may reduce calorie and sugar consumption, it may also lead students to take less milk overall, drink less and waste more of the white milk they do take, and no longer purchase school lunch.

“When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires,” said Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “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.”

The Cornell study, Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias, examined what happened when chocolate milk was banned in a sample of Oregon elementary schools. It found that students on average consumed less sugar and fewer calories, but also consumed less protein and calcium.

Additionally, the ban may have been a factor in a 7 percent decrease in the district’s lunch program participation.

“This study, conducted by a well-respected team of researchers, confirms what IDFA and its members had feared – that students who need a well-balanced school lunch the most are missing out on the nutrients that milk provides,” said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs. 

The study authors recommend that food service managers carefully weigh the costs and benefits of eliminating chocolate milk and consider alternative options that would make white milk more convenient and attractive to choose. 

“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,” the study authors said. “We’ve found that this approach can increase sales by 20 percent or more."

“This study offers good information and great ideas for helping students to get the nutrients they need during the school day,” said Frye. “IDFA aims to ensure that school nutrition directors and administrators are apprised of the study and its results, too.”

Frye encourages members selling fluid milk to schools to be sure to share the study results with their local governments and district school boards.

Professors David Just and Brian Wansink of Cornell contributed to the study, which was published today in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal.

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For more information, contact Frye at cfrye@idfa.org or (202) 220-3543.

 
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