Parents who had children in several schools in Oregon noticed what they viewed as a problem. The kids were much more likely to drink chocolate milk than they were to drink white milk. The parents believed that banning the chocolate milk would force the kids to start drinking more white milk. Instead, things did not work out as planned.
It is safe to say that the parents in the school district’s PTA meant well. They were hoping to make changes that would provide better nutrition for the students. They believed that removing the chocolate milk, and only offering white milk, would be for the best. As such, chocolate milk was removed from school cafeterias in 11 Oregon schools.
A study about the situation was done by researchers from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition programs. Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate, said: “Members of the school district’s PTA were adamantly opposed to offering chocolate milk in the cafeterias, claiming it was as bad as soda.”
What happened when the chocolate milk was removed? The result was not what the parents in the PTA were hoping for. Students did not end up drinking more white milk. In fact, some students stopped drinking milk altogether.
The study found that banning chocolate milk resulted in milk sales dropping by 8%. They found that 29% of the white milk that was served with school lunches was thrown out. A total of 7% of kids entirely stopped eating the school lunches.
Why did this happen? The researchers say it is because children make their food choices based on what tastes good. They aren’t likely to pick something because they are told it is a healthy choice. They are looking for the milk that tasted the best to them – which was the chocolate milk. Parents who have children that are picky eaters know this all too well.
Nutritionally speaking, the removal of the chocolate milk resulted in kids consuming less sugar and fewer calories. Most would see that as a good thing. But, it also resulted in kids getting less protein and calcium. They were getting at least some calcium and protein from the chocolate milk.
What should the PTA parents done instead? The researchers recommend that instead of banning chocolate milk, they need to put in effort to make the white milk look like the “normal” choice. Fill the coolers at least one-third to half full of white milk. It also helps to make the white milk more convenient to get to than the chocolate milk. Put the white milk in the front so it is easier to grab.
Image by Simon Law on Flickr.