Connecticut Assembly Bans Chocolate Milk To Protect Federal School Lunch Funding
May 21, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Facing the threat of losing its Federal funding carrot for public school lunches under a Michelle Obama-backed child obesity law, the Connecticut General Assembly last week approved a measure banning chocolate milk from being made available in lunchrooms throughout the State.
On the final night of the State’s legislative session, the Assembly passed a series of amendments to education bill HB 5566 that included language defining which types and quantities of milk can be served in school cafeterias — and chocolate milk, because of its sodium content, will effectively get the axe.
Pat Baird, dietician and president of the State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said the decision is counterproductive to improving the quality of kids’ diets, because the benefit of ditching the small amount of sodium contained in each serving of chocolate milk will be negated — and then some — by the discouraging effect that banning a popular drink will have on kids’ participation in school lunch offerings.
From CT News Junkie:
“This will have a significant impact on school meal participation and ultimately nutrient intake for students,” Baird said. “School chocolate milk has between 60-90 mg added sodium, which is only 2-4 percent of sodium intake in a day. Removing chocolate milk hardly moves the needle on added sodium intake; but what it does remove is critical nutrients for growth and development.”
She said the majority of the milk sold in schools is chocolate and “research has shown that when chocolate milk is not served, milk consumption drops 35 percent and does not recover.”
Baird’s remarks were echoed by other health professionals following the vote.
Governor Dannel Malloy said last week he disagrees with the chocolate milk ban, which most media sources have interpreted as an indication of his intent to veto the bill. But this statement from the Governor’s office forms the basis for that assumption:
“This specific bill has not yet come to the Governor’s desk and will be reviewed in detail when it arrives. However, on the broader topic at hand, the Governor is not supportive of banning chocolate milk in public schools. While we must be extremely mindful of the nutritional value of what’s offered to students, ensuring an appropriate array of options helps to ensure that kids receive the calcium and other nutrients they need.”
It sounds as though the Governor would like to veto the bill — if in doing so he doesn’t strike out the bevy of other provisions that keep the Federal dollars rolling in.
One Republican on the Connecticut House Education Committee said the vote wasn’t intended as a nanny-state dictate to parents and children on what students should or shouldn’t eat — although the effect is the same. Rather, said Representative Timothy Ackert, the Assembly was staring down the possibility that the Feds would yank funding for school programs if the State didn’t approve the measure to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, for which first lady Michelle Obama served as lead cheerleader during her husband’s first Presidential term.
In addition to sometimes-amusing reports of students’ vehement rejection of the new school-lunch mandates, health professionals’ concerns that overall participation in school-lunch programs have suffered under the Act were indeed confirmed in a March Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The GAO found that student participation had declined by more than 1 million since 2010, while 48 States had struggled to enact the dietary standards without resorting to odd food combinations or adding new menu items kids simply don’t want.