MARCY — If a spoonful of sugar makes the milk go down, leave it in, along with some chocolate and nutrients, says Rep. Anthony J. Brindisi, who wants New York City to re-think a proposed ban on flavored milk in its public schools.
Brindisi, D-22, Utica, stopped at DiNitto Farms Monday on a tour of district dairy farms to publicize a letter he and five other members of New York’s congressional delegation wrote asking New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to not follow through with a ban on flavored milk in the city’s 1 million-student public school system.
The city’s Education Department says there has been no decision made. But the city’s Department of Health recommends against chocolate milk, noting that chocolate milk typically contains 20 grams of sugar, compared to 12 grams in plain 1 percent or skim, with the difference added to naturally occurring forms of sugar in cow’s milk.
One carton of chocolate milk can account for half the recommended daily limit of sugar for a 7-year-old, an agency flier says, and kids there are used to plain milk because that’s all that’s allowed in licensed group child-care centers and Head Start programs, the flier adds.
The department also notes that children can get enough calcium from other foods in school meals, such as cheese, yogurt, tofu, spinach and collard greens.
Brindisi, though, joined by farmers, dairy advocates and state Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon at the farm Monday, said the sugar difference is negligible and preferable to having kids waste milk or get even more added sugar from sodas, sports drinks or other beverages,
particularly since milk provides nutrients such as calcium, potassium and Vitamin D.
Brindisi’s letter dated Sept. 6 was also signed by Grace Meng, D-6th of Queens; Antonia Delgado, D-19th Dist. of Schenectady; Elise Stefanik, R-21st. Dist of Schuylerville; John Katko, R-24th Dist. of Camillus; and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-18th Dist. of Cold Spring.
Their letter cites several studies showing no significant adverse effects from drinking chocolate or other flavored milk compared to non-flavored. It also cites a study from Oregon that found milk sales declined nearly 10 percent when flavored milk was removed from elementary school cafeterias. Brindisi noted Los Angeles public schools reversed a ban on chocolate milk and reduced milk waste 78 percent.
“The data shows that banning flavored milk results in less nutrients for kids, more waste in our lunch rooms and fewer jobs for our dairy workers,” Brindisi said.
“Chocolate milk does more than just provide nutrients to kids. It unites Democrats, Republicans and dairy farmers and that’s an impressive feat. Cheers!” Brindisi then took a swig from a glass of chocolate milk.
While milk from DiNitto or other Oneida County dairy farms may not be actually sold to the city’s schools, Brindisi and other advocates said it’s an important market, and that the economic issue is more about educating consumers and maintaining demand for milk.
Almost all New York dairy farmers are in organizations known as co-ops that buy milk from farms and sell to processors, who package it either as fresh milk for drinking or for manufacturing in cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods. Milk suitable for fresh use, known as class one fetches the highest price, explained Kevin Angell, a dairy farmer from Verona and president of the Oneida County Farm Bureau.
“We like it all to go for fluid use because that’s the most profitable,” Angell said. “We’re pretty lucky to have East Coast markets and a lot of population. And obviously school kids is a big part of our markets.”
“When school is out, you’ll see a change in class one demand … so the bottling will cut back a little bit and then it has to go to manufacturing, which is less profitable.”
But nutrition is the important part, the dairy advocates said Monday.
“We can take a holistic approach as we talk to the city schools, and talk about the important ce of exercise,” said Buttenschon, D-119th Dist. of Utica, a member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee.
Terri DiNitto, whose family runs the 1,200-cow farm, said she is less concerned about the added sugar in flavored milk than that in other foods, such as sweet cereals, snack chips and other beverages.
“I want my kids to choose milk, and if they will only drink it with Ovaltine or chocolate or strawberry over high sodium sports drinks like Gatorade, and sodas, I’d definitely give them chocolate or strawberry milk. That’s the obvious hoxce because it’s definitely more nutritious for them,” she said.
“If your kids are active and not sitting in front of a TV, on their phones or whatever, you shouldn’t have to worry much about the sugar content.”