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Letter Recommending Low-Fat Flavored Milk in Schools Sent to USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently received a letter from Joe Courtney (D-CT), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), and 55 other members of Congress supporting the increase of dairy consumption in children by allowing schools to offer low-fat, flavored milk as part of school meals programs. Currently, USDA flexibilities allow schools to offer low-fat flavored milk through the 2021-2022 school year. The USDA has a proposed rule at hand that would make these flexibilities permanent.

The letter cites the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report, of which ASAS Public Policy Committee Chair Teresa Davis was a member. The DGAC found that 79% of those aged 9-13 years old that rely on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are not meeting the recommended intake of dairy foods.

“The underconsumption of milk and other dairy foods carries both nutritional and health risks: milk plays a central role in providing essential nutrients of public health concern, including calcium, potassium, and vitamin D,” the letter states. “To increase dairy intake, the DGAs recommend consumption of low-fat and fat-free milk and other dairy products.”

The letter has support from those in the dairy industry, such as the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “IDFA appreciates the leadership of the more than 50 champions for dairy in the House of Representatives for encouraging USDA to prioritize dairy in federal nutrition programs, specifically through the inclusion of low-fat flavored milk in school meal programs,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA President and CEO. “Right now, USDA has before it a proposed rule that would return to flexibilities allowing flavored, low-fat milk to be served in child nutrition programs, and IDFA strongly encourages the USDA to adopt school milk flexibility in the rule as a long-term solution. By doing so, the USDA would help ensure more kids meet the recommended intake for dairy set forth in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The letter cites a study by the Milk Processors Education Program, overseen by USDA, that indicates in 2012, the year low-fat flavored milk was removed from schools to 2018, school milk volume decreased by 10.8%. Additionally, during the 2017-2018 school year, under a waiver authority, schools that served low-fat flavored milk found that 58% saw an increase in milk sold and 82% reported that it was easy or very easy to accommodate low-fat flavored milk within the calorie restrictions set forth by the NSLP.

“Milk benefits children in many ways – but it can’t benefit them at all if they don’t drink it, and ensuring that they do so requires a wide range of options,” said Jim Mulhern, President, and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation. 

Check out the benefits of milk for school-aged children in this Animal Frontiers article.