There are typically plenty of brown milk cartons on the lunch tables at Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications each afternoon.
Chocolate milk is the beverage of choice among the majority of first-graders at the elementary school.
“It’s so much better,” Ryan Hutchins, 6, said as he sipped brown milk out of his carton Monday afternoon.
The majority of his classmates sitting at the lunch table with him agreed, including Jaylene Cintron, 6, who said she prefers chocolate milk but drinks white milk at night.
About 70 percent of the fourth-graders at Marie Curie chose chocolate milk over white milk for lunch Monday. Kianna Mercado, 9, said she chose white milk because she doesn’t like chocolate, but she said she would rather drink juice if it were an option.
The lunch staff at Marie Curie said most of the students choose chocolate milk at lunch time. Milk — regular and chocolate — is the only beverage offered during lunch, although juice is an option for breakfast.
The National Dairy Council launched a new campaign Monday that spreads the word about the nutritional value of flavored milk. The campaign, called “Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk” includes ads, commercials and the launch of a new Web site RaiseYourHand4Milk.com.
Meghan Campbell, a nutrition specialist and registered dietitian with the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, said milk, even chocolate milk, offers three of the five nutrients that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines said Americans were lacking: calcium, potassium and magnesium.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association support flavored milk for children, Campbell said.
Opponents of chocolate milk in schools say children already get enough sugar in their diets and the added sugar in chocolate milk can add five pounds over a school year.
Kathleen Miller, a registered dietitian at St. Mary’s Hospital, said opponents of chocolate milk are focusing on the wrong things.
“I would say there are other areas of the school lunch program that you could look at to take away,” she said.
Miller said school-aged children are still not getting the recommended amount of dairy in their diet, mainly because they choose beverages other than milk.
“I’m a mom and a dietitian and I would rather my children be drinking a chocolate milk with a bit of sugar than not drink milk at all,” she said. “And I’d rather see kids choosing chocolate milk over juice or Gatorade or any of the other things in the vending machines.”
Miller has two small children who attend the Pumpkin Patch Child Care Center in Guilderland. Miller approves the lunch program at the day care and said while chocolate milk is not offered, she wouldn’t be opposed to having it in the program.
“There are some kids where that is the only way to get them to drink milk and for those kids it would only hurt them not to have it as an option,” she said.