FREDERICTON – New Brunswick schools will no longer sell chocolate milk and juice, joining a continent-wide trend toward healthier school lunches.
A new nutrition policy unveiled Wednesday requires foods of a higher nutritional value, which are lower in saturated fat, sugar and sodium for public schools.
The government says it applies to all food and beverages offered in public schools — including breakfast and lunch programs, vending machines, canteens, snacks and fundraisers.
Flavoured milk and juices will no longer be sold, served or offered.
“It is important that we … teach them what a proper meal looks like,” Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny said in a statement.
New Brunswick is among at least six provinces that have banned junk food from schools over the last 12 years, and a report released last summer said the measure is having a positive impact on student health.
Philip Leonard, a health economist at the University of New Brunswick, found that students banned from making junk food purchases at school for five or more years were, on average, about two pounds lighter than students who did not face a ban.
He said younger students showed the most positive results, but noted that probably stems from the fact that older students have more opportunity to leave the school grounds to get food from other sources.
In 2005, New Brunswick became the first province to impose a junk food ban inside its schools.
Prince Edward Island followed suit later that year. Nova Scotia and Quebec did the same in 2007, followed by British Columbia in 2008 and Ontario in 2011.
Using World Health Organization standards, Statistics Canada says close to one third — 31.5 per cent — of Canadian children and youth were classified as overweight or obese between 2009 to 2011.
One carton of chocolate milk includes about 40 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of sugar in a child’s diet, critics say.
But Marlene Schwartz, director of the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said last year banning chocolate milk might not be the best choice for every school.
There are students who strongly prefer flavoured milk and who might have nutritional deficiencies, Schwartz said. It might make more sense to offer chocolate milk to such children ensure they get the calcium, vitamin D and potassium they need, she said.
“You kind of have to know your student body,” Schwartz said. “Districts have to make an informed decision.”
San Francisco’s school district recently banned chocolate milk, extending an earlier ban on soft drinks.
In 2011, the Los Angeles Unified district banned chocolate milk, citing the same argument against extra sugar as San Francisco.
But the largest district in California reversed course after a pilot study found offering chocolate milk again would increase milk consumption and reduce waste.
It put chocolate milk back in all the district’s schools in 2017.