The debate over banning chocolate milk in school cafeterias

Why questions about nutrition in the lunchroom have divided parents and officials

Child drinking chocolate milk.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Gettyimages)

Chocolate milk could soon be history in public school cafeterias. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering imposing sugar limits that could amount to a ban on flavored milk in elementary and middle schools under proposed new standards for school meals. The rules would cap sugar content for the first time, targeting such sugary lunch-room staples as breakfast cereal, yogurt, desserts, and chocolate and strawberry milk to help improve kids' health and fight childhood obesity, which federal panels have linked to consuming too much sugar.

The rules would take effect over seven years, starting next school year. They would limit added sugar found in processed foods and drinks, not those found naturally in things like fruit and plain milk. New York City considered but abandoned a similar ban earlier this year; Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have adopted local moratoriums on serving schoolkids flavored milk, which a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine identified as the leading source of added sugar in school cafeteria meals.

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.