Bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act Welcomed by Dairy Groups

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A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress that seeks to increase milk options for students is getting the support of national dairy groups and might help reverse the drop in milk consumption at schools.

The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019, was introduced by Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) on June 5. The bill would continue current policy that allows schools to offer students low-fat and fat-free milk, including low-fat (1%) flavored milk. The legislation also allows individual school districts to determine what varieties of milk are offered, provided that they align with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Milk provides the cornerstone of a healthy meal for our nation’s children,” Rep. Courtney says. “It packs valuable nutrients including protein, potassium, and calcium—a solid foundation for building a healthy menu in America’s schools. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a ten percent decline in school milk consumption in recent years as a result of removing low-fat flavored milk from school menus. Our bill will positively impact the quality of children’s diets while supporting our local family dairies.”

“Milk is the No. 1 source of nine essential nutrients in many young American’s diets and provides many significant health benefits,” Rep. Thompson says. “I am proud to join with Rep. Courtney in an effort to reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools throughout Pennsylvania and across the country. By codifying what USDA is already allowing, it is my hope that we will witness consumption return to their historic levels with kids enjoying nutritious milk at school.”

Children four years and older are not consuming enough dairy to meet Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, according to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services. Despite growing school enrollment, schools served 213 million fewer half pints of milk from 2014-2016.

In November 2017, USDA announced regulatory changes for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs that allowed schools the option to serve low-fat, 1-percent flavored milk. The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019 would codify this ruling.

Both the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) are offering support of the legislation.

“Milk has been an integral part of school meals since their beginning, and greater milk consumption equals better nutrition for America’s kids,” says NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “USDA’s action last year to return low-fat flavored milk to school menus has been good for schools, students and American dairy farmers. This legislation would further that progress by letting school districts know they can continue to offer low-fat flavored milk in years to come.”

“One of the best ways to help our growing children and teens get the nutrients they need is by providing healthy dairy options at school that they will actually drink,” says Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “We are grateful to Representatives Thompson and Courtney for introducing this bill that will maintain the option for schools to offer low-fat 1% flavored milk to students. Most students prefer these options at school because many enjoy them at home. The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019 is a good first step toward providing expanded milk options that will help ensure students get the nine essential nutrients that milk uniquely provides, including powerful protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium.”

The bill has also been supported by the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation.