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Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk served at the New York State Fair's Milk Bar in August. New York City schools could ban chocolate milk and serve only plain milk to students. 

For a bipartisan group of lawmakers and upstate farmers, the New York City Department of Education's proposal to ban chocolate milk in schools is "udder"-ly ridiculous. 

The city's education leaders believe the plan could help lower the amount of sugar children consume daily. A "chocolate milk guide" available on the city's website explains why schools should choose plain milk instead of chocolate milk. One reason is that "too many calories from added sugars increases the risk of childhood obesity." 

The guide features a chart comparing chocolate milk to skim and 1% plain milk. Chocolate milk has more calories, more grams of sugar and more added sugar. 

"Children who drink chocolate milk twice a day consume about 80 grams of added sugar each week," the guide explains. "This is more than six pounds of sugar per child each school year. Principals can request to offer only plain (unflavored) 1% or skim milk during school meals." 

However, the education department's proposal would go beyond that and ensure chocolate milk isn't an option. 

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher criticized the proposal in a letter to the New York City Department of Education. He highlighted the potential economic impact it would have on the state's dairy farms. In terms of sales, New York is the third-best dairy producing state in the country. 

While Fisher acknowledged the agency's goal of serving healthy school meals, he believes banning chocolate milk would lead to less milk consumption and more food waste. He cited a study conducted by Cornell University that focused on Oregon schools that removed flavored milk. There was a 9.9% decline in daily milk sales, according to the study. 

"Research has shown children who drink flavored milk consume more of the important nutrients related to healthy growth and development such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium, in comparison to non-flavored milk drinkers," Fisher wrote. 

A bipartisan group of New York congressional representatives also oppose the proposed chocolate milk ban. U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Utica Democrat, authored a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that was signed by other upstate members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. John Katko and Elise Stefanik. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, a Queens Democrat, also signed the letter. 

Meng said it would be "foolish" to ban flavored milk. Brindisi, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said it would hurt farmers. 

"The data shows that banning flavored milk results in less nutrients for kids, more waste in our lunchrooms, and fewer jobs for our dairy workers," he said. "I am calling on the mayor and New York City to reject a ban of flavored milk in schools so that our kids can continue to get the nutrients they need from milk — in whatever flavor they like." 

Other cities have banned chocolate and other flavored milks from being served in school cafeterias. San Francisco schools banned chocolate milk in 2017. Los Angeles schools prohibited flavored milk for five years before easing the ban in 2016. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.