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USDA considers limiting flavored milk options in elementary schools

USDA officials pointed to concerns over the number of added sugars in children's diets.

NORFOLK, Va. — Will chocolate milk be banned in schools? The Department of Agriculture is considering removing flavored milk from elementary schools. The concern is the amount of added sugars in children’s diets. 

According to the Federal Register -- a daily journal from the federal government -- this proposal comes amid concerns over the number of added sugars in children’s diets.

Not everyone agrees with the proposal. Some say it’s important for kids to drink milk, and chocolate milk is better than no milk at all.

“However you have to get it in them to drink it, is what you need to do, because it’s good for them," Norfolk resident Lynn Hudley said.

One USDA proposal would have flavored milk like chocolate and strawberry milk available only for high schoolers. Elementary students would only have access to fat-free and low-fat white milk. 

Dr. Leah Rowland, who is a Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters pediatrician and co-chair of the School Health Committee for the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said parents might be unaware of just how much sugar their children are eating in a day.

“When we look at the total consumption of sugar in our kids' diet, most people would be astounded," Dr. Rowland said.

She said it’s recommended children get no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. She said eating too much can lead to health problems like childhood obesity or diabetes. 

“When you look at the average in chocolate milk: 17 grams in a serving," Dr. Rowland said. "It’s a balance, right? We want our kids to have calcium to build strong bones but if we’re giving them almost their full daily sugar in that cup of milk... it makes sense to really look at what can we do to give them other choices.” 

Nothing is set in stone just yet. Another USDA proposal would keep flavored milk for all students but with a limit on the number of added sugars to no more than 10 grams per cup.  

It’s a surprisingly divisive issue.

“I think they should have the strawberry and the chocolate because people get tired of the same old stuff all the time," Norfolk resident Angela Guy said. 

According to the USDA, “Flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in school lunch and breakfast programs.” 

If the USDA does decide to limit flavored milk, the change wouldn’t take place until the 2025-2026 school year.

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