School Lunch Nutrition and HFCS
High fructose corn syrup plays an important role in school nutrition—it not only makes healthy foods affordable, but it also makes some nutritious items more palatable—like chocolate milk.
Yet some school administrators have pushed recently to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from school nutrition programs. If approved, these decisions would significantly increase food costs and negatively impact the choice and variety of food offered to our children. For example, removing items that often contain high fructose corn syrup from a sample January middle school lunch menu would reduce offerings by 67%.
A recent movement has begun advocating for the replacement of high fructose corn syrup with other caloric sweeteners in school foods. However, high fructose corn syrup and sugar are equally sweet, have the same number of calories, and are metabolized the same by the body.
“Replacing sugar from corn with sugar from cane or beets does not improve the nutritional value of chocolate milk,” said James Rippe, M.D., Cardiologist and Biomedical Sciences Professor, University of Central Florida. “Milk provides essential nutrients, and children drink more of it when flavored milk is available to them.”
Instead of focusing on a specific ingredient in school nutrition, it is more important to look at overall calories children consume and plan healthy meal choices based on that aspect. “Banishing high-fructose corn syrup is ‘a waste of time and money’ – better to limit children’s total sugar intake.” Margo Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest