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Is whole milk headed back to schools?

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 04 February 2019

A proposal to bring whole and flavored milk back to school lunchrooms has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

H.R. 832 (the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019) was introduced by U.S. Reps. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-Pennsylvania) and House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota).

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Attempts to expand school feeding-program milk offerings are continuing on several fronts in an effort to reverse declining fluid milk consumption since federal rules were changed earlier this decade. In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, amending federal school nutrition standards. Among the changes, the law mandated that flavored milk offered in schools must be fat-free. After implementation, milk consumption in schools dropped. Students consumed 288 million fewer half pints of milk from 2012-15 even as public school enrollments grew, according to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

In 2017, U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a temporary rule that allowed schools to receive waivers to offer low-fat (1 percent fat) flavored milk.

Currently, USDA is advancing a final rule titled – “The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium Requirements” – scheduled to go into effect in mid-February 2019. That rule gives schools more discretion in selecting the varieties of milk served during lunch and breakfast programs, and allows local operators to permanently offer flavored low-fat milk without having to apply for waivers. (Read: USDA rule permanently expands school milk options.)

The latest bill expands on another proposal previously introduced by Thompson. H.R. 4101 (the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017) provided schools the option to serve low-fat flavored milk varieties.

Co-sponsors of H.R. 832 include eight Republicans, including House Ag Committee ranking member Mike Conaway (R-Texas). Others are U.S. Reps. Chris Collins and Elise Stefanik (both R-New York), Rodney Davis (R-Illinois), and John Joyce, Mike Kelly, Dan Meuser and Lloyd Smucker (all R-Pennsylvania).

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“Whole milk provides yet another way for children to receive dairy’s nutritional benefits as part of a healthy eating pattern,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “This bill encourages the proper nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.”  end mark

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