In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which amended nutrition standards in the National School Lunch Program. Among the changes, the law mandated that flavored milk offered within the program must be fat free. This law, along with lower participation in the program, led to an alarming decline in milk consumption in schools since 2010.
Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R., Pa.) and House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) have introduced a bill to allow both unflavored and flavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias. Declining milk consumption in schools not only affects students but also dairy farm families and rural communities across the nation.
H.R. 832, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, recognizes the importance of milk to the health and well-being of growing children. Last year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools to serve 1% flavored milk in school meal programs. H.R. 832 would allow whole milk to be included as well.
To help encourage nutritious options in the National School Lunch Program and increase consumption, Thompson had introduced legislation – H.R. 4101, the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017 – to provide schools with the option to serve 1% flavored milk varieties. This latest legislation builds on the previous bill and USDA’s rule by allowing whole milk -- both unflavored and flavored -- to be offered within the National School Lunch Program.
“Milk is the number-one source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of our students, but if they don’t drink it, these health benefits are lost,” Thompson said. “Milk consumption has been declining in schools throughout the nation because kids are not consuming the varieties of milk made available to them. It is my hope that the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act will bring a wider range of milk options to American lunchrooms so students can choose the kind they love best.”
“I’m proud to join Congressman Thompson in this effort that will provide more choices for nutritious and healthy milk to kids in schools and a valuable market for dairy farmers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and nationwide at a time when they’re continuing to face extremely difficult market conditions,” Peterson added.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) welcomed the bill's introduction.
IDFA said this bill will give schools more flexibility to offer the same types of milk that children and teens enjoy at home. "Providing expanded milk options will help ensure that students get the nutrients that milk uniquely provides, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” IDFA president and chief executive officer Dr. Michael Dykes said.
Adding whole milk to school menus reflects research showing that such products benefit children and gives school administrators one more tool with which to develop healthy eating habits, NMPF said in a news release.
“Whole milk provides yet another way for children to receive dairy’s nutritional benefits as part of a healthy eating pattern,” NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern said. “This bill encourages the proper nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.”
Also joining as co-sponsors of the bill are House Agriculture Committee ranking member Mike Conaway (R., Texas) and Reps. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), John Joyce (R., Pa.), Mike Kelly (R., Pa.), Dan Meuser (R., Pa.), Lloyd Smucker (R., Pa.) and Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.).