April 27, 2022

Dairy groups encourage improving nutrition security to USDA

Dairy groups encourage improving nutrition security to USDA

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have submitted joint comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to improve nutrition security by updating the school meal standards to increase dairy consumption. The letter states that the school meal programs should be aligned with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans report (DGA). 

“IDFA applauds the USDA’s goal of creating ambitious, achievable, and durable nutrition standards for students that support positive health and development outcomes for children while improving nutrition security,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “The most recent DGA report is clear: children are not receiving enough essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function, and overall wellness. School meals offer the most important opportunity of the day for children to get the essential nutrients they need, and dairy foods—including milk, yogurt, and cheese—are absolutely critical to building meals that children want to consume.”

Earlier this year, USDA announced transitional standards that will begin in the school year (SY) 2022-2023, running through SY 2023-2024. The goal is to give schools time to transition from current, pandemic operations, toward more nutritious meals. The change will allow schools to continue to serve low-fat flavored milk, consistent with DGA recommendations, and pause sodium reduction targets that IDFA and NMPF believe threaten the ability of school meals professionals to serve nutrient-rich cheeses.

“On behalf of American dairy farmers, NMPF thanks USDA for their work to enhance school meal nutrition standards to reverse the underconsumption of dairy and help students boost their intake of key nutrients,” said Jim Mulhern, President, and CEO of NMPF. “Milk and other dairy products support USDA’s critical goal of boosting consumption of essential nutrients, including potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. Low-fat flavored milk is fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is a nutrient-dense option that kids in schools choose to drink.”

In their joint comments, IDFA and NMPF urge USDA to embrace the recommendations of the DGA report and expand nutritious dairy options that encourage dairy consumption among children. The letter suggests continuing flavored milk and yogurt offerings in schools and setting sodium limits that accommodate the use of cheese in school meal products.

The Scientific Report of the 2020 DGA Advisory Committee, of which, Teresa Davis, ASAS President-Elect, was a member, indicated that 79% of children between the ages of 9 and 13 years old are not meeting the recommended intakes of dairy foods. Check out this Animal Frontiers article discussing the importance of milk in human nutrition. 

Read the joint comments here.