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The move comes in the wake of Trump administration officials rolling back healthy school lunch regulations. 

Elisabeth Sherman
July 19, 2017

Last week, San Francisco banned chocolate milk from their public schools—the last frontier in an effort to purge sugary foods from cafeterias and vending machines. The ban will go into effect this fall at elementary and middle schools.

According to a report from the SF Chronicle, the ban removes 35 to 40 calories from student’s daily meals, but banning chocolate milk doesn’t always lead to a healthier student body: Los Angeles stopped serving chocolate milk in schools in 2011, but has recently reversed the decision, citing the fact kids might be more likely to drink milk if a flavored option is available. San Francisco, on the other hand, is still pursuing cutting down on kids’ sugar intake, and hope their students will simply adapt to the ban by drinking more regular milk.

The decision comes in the wake of recent promises from the Trump administration to roll back school lunch standards, some of which were introduced by former first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiatives. Many schools have complained that food kids want to eat that are also both high in whole grains and low in sodium are difficult to make, according to U.S. News.

Back in May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue suspended previous requirements limiting the amount of sodium allowed in school lunches, and allowed 1 percent flavored milk to be introduced back into cafeterias, insisting that his new ruling does “not [reduce] the nutritional standards whatsoever,” but rather provides more “regulatory flexibility,” for school districts struggling to keep up with the cost of implementing the Obama-era regulations.

However, since 2013, when schools began implanting the updated requirements, the USDA has been arguing that “healthier school meals…are working and having a positive impact on the health of our next generation.” Around the same time, the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a nationwide study that students who ate lunches that exceeded the USDA nutritional standards were less likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who ate lunches that only met the bare minimum requirements.

In 2015, Pew was already seeing evidence that the new regulations were helping kids get healthier: Three studies concluded that students were eating an increasing number of fruits and vegetables. 

In May of this year, the Brookings Institute announced the results of study, which found that “when a school contracts with a healthy lunch company, students at the school score better on end-of-year academic tests, though they have yet to come to a solid conclusion about whether or not healthy school lunches are significantly improving obesity rates among children.

Reseachers may still need more time before they come to any definitive conclusions about how healthier school lunches are benefiting students, but evidence is mounting that San Francisco's ban on chocolate milk might be for the best.