Stirring Up Controversy

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 3:12pm

Push to remove chocolate milk from schools draws mixed reactions.

The debate over whether to offer chocolate milk in schools is gaining attention.

The Superintendent of the nation's second largest school district, Los Angeles Unified Schools, is pushing to remove high-sugar, flavored milk from school menus over the summer.

Seattle Public Schools does not have any official rules when it comes to flavored milk.

The district allows schools to decide what works for them.

A handful of Seattle schools have restrictions, allowing chocolate milk to only be served at one meal, breakfast or lunch instead of at both.

"If you need to sweeten up the milk a little bit and add some chocolate to it, that is, in our mind at least, giving them some nutrients that they need," said Teresa Wippel, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.

Several school districts in Washington are doing something Seattle Public Schools did about four years ago.

They are moving to chocolate milk that does not have high fructose corn syrup in it.

The recent news about efforts to ban chocolate milk in some schools is something the dairy industry is paying close attention to.

"Dairy farmers are very concerned, and we are really pushing processors to look at their products and say, 'Are there changes you can make? Can we lower the sugar? Will the kids still drink it,'" said Cara Stayton, a registered dietitian who works for the Washington State Dairy Council. "When there is so much sugar in children's diets right now, to put a focus on flavored milk seems like a silly place to put it because there are nine essential nutrients in flavored milk."

Sixty-six percent of the milk consumed in Washington schools is flavored, according to the Washington State Dairy Council.

That does not sit well with all parents.

"I think chocolate milk in schools is not a great idea. I think there is far too much sugar and chemical additives in food in general. It impacts kids behavior and overall health," said Melissa Middlebrook, a Seattle parent who recently signed a petition to get chocolate milk out of schools.

Amanda Renton, a nanny, does not agree.

She has no problem with chocolate milk being served in schools.

"I think it is fine as long as it is combined with a nice diet, and you are not only drinking chocolate milk," said Renton.
 

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