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• New York City Mayor Eric Adams has proposed banning chocolate milk during his career, and he suggested in a 2022 press conference that he would consider pursuing it in the future.
• He has written in a letter to lawmakers that he is not making such a determination now.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is taking aim at New York City Mayor Eric Adams on a small but potentially explosive issue: chocolate milk.
In a Feb. 3 press release, Stefanik said Adams wanted to ban chocolate milk in schools. Stefanik’s release touted a bill she was introducing: the Protecting School Milk Choices Act, which guarantees at least one flavored milk option at lunch for schools taking part in the National School Lunch Program.
"Any effort of Mayor Adams to ban chocolate milk and replace it with vegan juice is an absolute non-starter and will be opposed by parents, families, kids, and New Yorkers," the release said.
Adams is one of the most prominent politicians who follows a mostly vegan diet. Is he gunning for chocolate milk in New York City schools?
Adams has expressed an interest in doing so, but so far as mayor, he’s stopped short of implementing the policy.
Stefanik’s office referred PolitiFact New York to news coverage of Adams’ views on chocolate milk in recent years, including a Politico article.
In 2019, when Adams was serving as Brooklyn borough president, he urged then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Education Department to adopt a pilot program to bring nondairy milk to schools. The effort fell by the wayside.
Adams also created and uploaded a video critical of chocolate milk during this time.
Comparing pitchers and glasses of milk and water with their estimated sugar content, Adams said in the video that "instead of serving our children beverages that set them up for a lifetime of health problems, we should be encouraging them to drink more water."
In March 2022, Stefanik and other members of the New York congressional delegation, sent a letter to Adams expressing their concern with the potential elimination of flavored milk in New York City schools.
One reason for the concern is that dairy products are a nearly $3 billion agricultural business in New York; the state ranks fourth for dairy production in the nation after California, Wisconsin and Idaho. Stefanik and other members of New York’s congressional delegation have dairy producers as constituents.
"Over two-thirds of milk served in school is flavored, which represents an essential way that kids get the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development," the lawmakers wrote. "Research finds that children who drink flavored milk consume more nutrients of concern like calcium, vitamin D, and potassium compared to non-flavored milk drinkers."
The following month, Adams responded to the lawmakers in a letter. In it, he said he was not making any official moves on chocolate milk policy.
"My administration is committed to empowering our students and their parents with the information and resources needed to make healthy choices for themselves and for our city," Adams wrote. "To that end, we are preparing for stakeholder engagement with our school communities to provide feedback on all aspects of our school food program. In the interim, we are not making any determinations about chocolate milk."
Adams added that under Agriculture Department rules, schools can individually choose to remove flavored milk at the school principal's discretion, as long as they continue to offer milk with every meal.
At an April 2022 press conference, Adams suggested that the pause in implementing an anti-chocolate milk policy may not be permanent.
"The report of my demise on this issue is falsely reported," he told reporters. "We basically stated that we are looking. We want alternatives before we do anything. There is a science behind the use of chocolate milk. If you make it sweet, it encourages children to drink more of it. Not realizing, making it sweet is adding sugar. That sugar causes health issues. So, you don’t encourage behavior based on bad health practices."
Fabien Levy, Adams’ press secretary, told PolitiFact New York that the mayor is "committed to having healthy options in schools for students and will continue to engage all stakeholders in this conversation."
Stefanik said Adams proposes to "ban chocolate milk."
Adams has proposed this policy during his career, and he suggested in a press conference last year that he would consider pursuing it in the future. However, he said in a letter to lawmakers that he is not making such a determination "in the interim."
We rate the statement Mostly True.
CORRECTION, March 9, 2023: This version has been updated to correct New York's ranking in milk production. It is fourth.
Elise Stefanik, "Stefanik Introduces Bill to Protect Milk Choices in Schools," Feb. 3, 2023
Eric Adams, "One Brooklyn – Chocolate Milk: Do the Math," Sep. 20, 2019
Eric Adams, letter responding to New York legislators, April. 14, 2022
Politico, "Eric Adams is after your child’s chocolate milk", Mar. 6, 2022
Eric Adams, press conference, Apr. 19, 2022
New York Post, "Eric Adams backs off proposed chocolate milk ban — for now," April 17, 2022
IDFA, "Voter Polling on Milk in School Meals, Conducted by Morning Consult," Mar. 1, 2022
Lancaster Farming, Members of Congress Press New York Mayor on Chocolate Milk, Mar. 9, 2022
Politico Pro, "New York House members to Adams: Don’t mess with chocolate milk in schools," Mar. 8, 2022
UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools, "School Nutrition Bites Grades K-12,"
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "Healthy kids ‘sweet enough’ without added sugars," Aug. 2016
Email interview with Palmer Brigham, Stefanik’s press secretary, Feb. 24, 2023
Email interview with Fabien Levy, Adams’ press secretary, Feb. 21, 2023
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