L.A. school district bringing back chocolate, strawberry milk

School board approves pilot program to study effects of reintroducing flavored milk.

After five years, children within the Los Angeles (Cal.) Unified School District will once again be able to enjoy flavored milk. According to the L.A. Times, the board voted 6-1 to loosen a 2011 ban and also approved a pilot program to study the effects of reintroducing flavored milk in a small group of schools, all of which must be in a volunteer capacity.

The school district initially eliminated chocolate and strawberry milk, citing its higher sugar content, but many argued that, sugar or no sugar, the flavored milk at least encourages kids to drink a healthy, nutritious product.

The latest vote comes on the heels of a 2015 study that revealed that the district is throwing out an enormous amount of food — 600 tons of organic waste each day. According to the L.A. Times, a significant amount of this waste is plain milk.

“Right now, we are ... taking garbage bags filled with milk to landfills, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me,” said board member Monica Ratliff, who introduced the idea of the flavored milk pilot program. “We can’t continue to ignore this issue.”

As such, Ratliff proposed the approved four-part study to be conducted in 21 schools to monitor behavior in the school cafeterias once the chocolate and strawberry milk varieties are reintroduced.

The study will determine whether the children will drink more plain milk if they are also offered flavored versions. Other studies will look at the children’s response to plain milk if it is offered in an appealing display case and whether kids will increase their milk intake if they are shown an informational campaign about how milk is good for them.

Ratliff’s proposal referenced a 2014 Cornell University study that found that when Oregon elementary schools banned flavored milk, students’ calorie and sugar intakes dropped — but it also showed that they rejected plain milk in increasing numbers.

The study by Cornell's Andrew Hanks, David Just and Brian Wansink found that eliminating chocolate milk from the elementary schools decreased total milk sales by 10%, indicating that many students substituted white milk for chocolate milk. However, even though more students were taking white milk, they wasted 29% more than before.

While one Los Angeles school board member voted against bringing back flavored milk, the L.A. Times reported that the board members were unanimous on one thing: the need to change the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school meal regulations, which require schools to offer milk with meals in order to receive reimbursement.

The school district’s milk supplier has also expressed a willingness to lower the added sugar in its chocolate and strawberry milk varieties.

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