This puts a whole new wrinkle in the school choice debate.
Upstate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik is proposing a federal law that would require all schools to offer chocolate or other flavored milk in addition to regular milk — in a not-so-subtle jab at health fanatic Mayor Eric Adams, who thinks the sugar-laden dairy product is bad for kids.
“Let our New York students drink chocolate milk!” a defiant Stefanik, the No. 4 House Republican, told The Post.
“Our dairy farmers in Upstate New York and the North Country work hard to produce nutritious milk for our communities,” she said.
“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.”
Republicans now control the House of Representatives, which gives Stefanik’s bill a better chance at passing than when she first introduced it last year. She is now one of the most powerful leaders in Congress, serving as the House Republican Conference chairwoman.
Stefanik’s legislation — the ‘‘Protecting School Milk Choices Act of 2023’’ — is co-sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, which will review the issue.
The measure simply states that schools must “offer students flavored and unflavored fluid milk” and also “may” offer students lactose-free milk.
Chocolate milk supporters are worried about Adams turning into the Big Apple’s latest health nanny — akin to former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who was thwarted in court over his push to ban the sale of large sugary drinks, succeeded in outlawing trans fats in restaurants and nixed smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places.
Adams, the former Brooklyn borough president who switched to a mostly vegan diet after being diagnosed with diabetes and has already ordered up plant-based meals as offerings in schools, posted a “Do the Math” video in 2019 in support of a proposal for the city Department of Education to scrap chocolate milk because of its sugar content.
In the video presentation, the then-borough president showed how much sugar was in a large glass of chocolate milk. The video said one cup of the sweet beverage contains 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar.
“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,” Adams said in the video.
“Chocolate milk is loaded with extra sugar and causes type 2 diabetes and obesity and other health issues,” Adams also said last year.
But, asked about Stefanik’s pro-chocolate milk bill, a mayoral spokesman said Thursday, “We are committed to having healthy options in schools for students and will continue to engage all stakeholders in this conversation.”
There’s been a give-and-take between Stefanik and chocolate milk critic Adams since last year.
Stefanik also joined a bipartisan group of House members who sent a letter to Adams calling on him to abandon his flavored milk ban in New York City schools. Other signatories included then-Hudson Valley Rep. Antonio Delgado, who is now lieutenant governor, and Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, both Democrats.
In response, Adams announced a temporary delay last April in his decision to ban chocolate milk in schools. But the mayor also said he would defer to school principals to make decisions on the accessibility of chocolate milk.
“At the discretion of the school principal, individual schools may choose to remove flavored milk from their menu as long as they continue to offer milk with every meal in accordance with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements,” his letter said then.
He also said he supported amending the National School Lunch Act to establish a pilot grant program for school food authorities to provide “healthy and climate friendly plant-based meal and milk options for students.”
More than two-thirds of milk served in schools is flavored, and an essential way for students to receive the necessary calcium, protein and other dairy nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, according to International Dairy Food Association figures by Stefanik.
Kids are not receiving enough calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which are also found in milk, according to Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans data.
The congresswoman cited a study showing that when flavored milk is removed from elementary schools, kids drink 35 percent less milk.