The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) applauded the introduction of a bipartisan bill to help reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools.
The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017, introduced by Representatives G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), would allow schools to offer low-fat and fat-free milk, including flavored milk with no more than 150 calories per 8-ounce serving, to participants in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs. The bill allows individual schools and school districts to determine which milkfat varieties to offer their students.
Once enacted, the bill would make permanent the administrative changes in the school lunch program proposed earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in one of his first official actions earlier this year, supported giving school districts the option to offer a variety of milk types as part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
“Congressmen Thompson and Courtney recognize the nutritional role that milk plays in helping school-aged children to grow and develop to their full potential,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. “We appreciate their steadfast commitment to reverse declining milk consumption by allowing schools to give kids access to a variety of milk options, including the flavored milks they love.”
The legislation includes a pilot program to test strategies that schools can use to increase the consumption of fluid milk. This could include ways to make milk more attractive and available to students, including improved refrigeration, packaging and merchandising.
“Milk is the number-one source of nine essential vitamins and minerals in children’s diets, and when its consumption drops, the overall nutritional intake of America’s kids is jeopardized,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. He pointed out that in just the first two years after low-fat flavored milk was removed from the school lunch program, 1.1 million fewer school students drank milk with their lunch.
The Act also includes a provision to allow participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, to have access to reduced-fat milk for themselves and their children.
The Act could benefit dairy producers as well. According to NMPF, school milk typically accounts for 6 to 7 percent of overall fluid milk sales. This value could go up two ways, according to Chris Galen, senior VP of communications with NMPF:
- Encouraging higher average daily participation in the school lunch program, reiterating the evidence that when low-fat flavored milk was removed, fewer kids ate school lunches.
- Encouraging better consumption of milk that students do take. There is less waste because low-fat flavored milk is a more popular choice than fat-free flavored.