February 01, 2024

Interpretive Summary: House passed Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act

House passed Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act was recently passed by the United States House. The bill would allow whole and low-fat percentage milk to be included in the National School Lunch Program. The legislation passed with a 330-99 vote and will now move on to the Senate for consideration. 

"Milk is an essential building block for a well-rounded and balanced diet, offering 13 essential nutrients and numerous health benefits. However, out-of-touch and outdated federal regulations have imposed restrictions on the types of milk students have access to in school meals,” Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson said. “I am pleased to see my bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act pass out of the United States House of Representatives, and I ultimately look forward to restoring access to these nutritious beverages in schools across the country." 

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act would modify the current National School Lunch Program provisions that were implemented in 2012. In 2012, the National School Lunch Program was revised to limit milk served in schools to unflavored low-fat, flavored fat-free, and unflavored fat-free milk. In 2017, this was modified to allow schools to serve flavored low-fat (1%) milk.

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act would continue to increase milk options in schools, offering students whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, fat-free flavored, and unflavored milk. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) notes that milk is an important building block for America’s children, but about 9 out of 10 children aren’t consuming enough dairy to meet their nutrition needs.

“Schools account for about 7.5% of total U.S. milk sales, making them an essential outlet for dairy farmers,” AFBF states in a letter to Congress. “Milk, including whole, reduced-fat, and flavored options, is also critical for children and adolescents who may not obtain necessary levels of vitamin D, potassium, high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and other key nutrients in their diet. According to the Department of Agriculture approximately 90% of the U.S. population, including school-aged children, are not consuming enough dairy to support recommended nutrient intake.” 

Those opposed to the bill, such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have gone as far as publishing billboards stating, Doctors Should Know Dairy Milk Isn’t Healthy for Kids. “Allowing whole milk to be offered as part of school meals is both unnecessary and harmful to children’s health,” said Noah Praamsma, MS, RDN, nutrition education coordinator for the Physicians Committee, “Rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes—both linked to consumption of saturated fat, which is found in whole milk—among children highlights the need to feed our children healthy food and beverages beginning at the earliest life stages.” 

On the other hand, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports whole milk consumption in children. Observational research suggests that higher cow milk fat intake is associated with lower childhood adiposity. The researchers also state that international guidelines that recommend reduced-fat milk for children (such as those used to restrict whole milk access in schools in 2012) might not lower the risk of childhood obesity.

Read The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act here