Journal Club: School switch to low-fat milk reduces calorie and fat intake

April 1, 2010

During the 2005-2006 school year, the New York City Department of Education removed whole milk from cafeterias in all the city's public schools.

During the 2005-2006 school year, the New York City (NYC) Department of Education removed whole milk from cafeterias in all the city's public schools, which served about 1.1 million children. An analysis of system-wide school milk purchasing data showed that by substituting low-fat for whole milk and switching from low-fat to fat-free chocolate milk, each of the NYC public school students who drink milk was served an estimated 5,960 fewer calories and 619 fewer grams of fat in 2009 than they were in 2004. For each student who drinks white milk once each school day, the switch averted 7,089 calories and 922 grams of fat each year, and for each student who drinks chocolate milk, 4,900 calories and 448 grams of fat. In addition, school milk purchases per student per year increased by 1.3% in fiscal year 2009 compared with 2004 purchases.

The milk changes began in the Bronx and Manhattan in the fall of 2005 and in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island in February 2006. Fiscal year 2006 was the first full school year in which whole milk was phased out in all 5 boroughs. Milk industry advocates and other observers predicted that the switch would cause student milk consumption to decline. Although these predictions were borne out from 2004 to 2006 with an 8% decline, student school milk purchases gradually increased thereafter (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59[3]:70-73).

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