Tip Sheets

Chocolate milk ‘reasonable choice’ for NYC students

Members of New York’s congressional delegation are urging Mayor Eric Adams not to ban chocolate milk from being offered in New York City schools. The following Cornell University experts are available for interviews on the guidelines of milk consumption for students as well as the impacts for New York dairy producers.

Christopher Wolf

E. V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics

Christopher Wolf, professor of agricultural economics, says removing chocolate milk as an option in school cafeterias may limit sugar consumption, but also results in less students consuming milk.

Wolf says:

“Past research has found that removing chocolate milk as an option in school cafeterias may limit sugar consumption but also results in less students consuming milk (and the nutrients therein), more milk waste, and less students participating in school lunch programs.

“This would ultimately be a loss of part of a valuable market for New York state dairy producers.”

Andrew Novakovic

Professor of Agricultural Economics

Andrew Novaković, expert in dairy markets and emeritus professor of agricultural economics, says given federal dietary guidelines around milk consumption, chocolate milk can be a reasonable choice.

Novaković says:

“The federal government determines the minimum dietary guidelines that must be followed in school feeding programs if school districts want access to federal funding to subsidize the cost of those meals. Current guidelines specify two key requirements. First, every meal offered to a student must include milk (dairy milk, from cows). Second, either white or chocolate milks may be served, but they must be either nonfat or low-fat (1%). A number of school districts have considered eliminating the offering of chocolate milk, not because of fat content but rather because of sugar content.

“The 2020 Dietary Guidelines makes several notable statements concerning milk consumption, all of which are based on the panel’s assessment of a consensus in the scientific literature. First, on average, almost all people, regardless of age, gender or race, consume less milk than is recommended. Second, consumption of sugar in the U.S. is excessive and should be reduced, and consumption of fats, saturated or otherwise, is primarily a concern about calories and obesity.  That latter leads to the recommendation for skim and low-fat milks. Whether or not the sugar used to moderate the naturally bitter taste of cocoa is a health concern can only be judged relative to a person’s entire diet. USDA guidelines strictly require all meals to conform to the overall recommendation. Within those guidelines, chocolate milk can be a reasonable choice. 

“The more pragmatic concern for some is the fact that studies have repeatedly shown that student’s consumption of milk is significantly reduced when chocolate milk is taken off the menu. That raises the practical question of whether it is better to consume chocolate milk or no milk at all.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.