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Petition drive seeks to bring whole milk back to schools

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 21 October 2019

A petition drive to make whole milk available for school children is being circulated by Grassroots Citizens for Whole Milk for Healthy Kids. About 6,450 online signatures and 3,000 paper signatures had been gathered as of Oct. 21.

The petition asks Congress and President Trump to support proposals to allow whole milk to be included on school feeding program menus. Current proposals expanding school milk options include:

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  • The Milk in Lunches for Kids Act (Senate Bill 1810) – That bill allows whole milk and reduced-fat milk (regular and flavored) at school meals and revises regulations to exclude milkfat from the calculation of the average saturated fat content of a school meal.

  • The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (House Bill 832) – That bill allows schools to offer whole milk and whole flavored milk as well as 2% reduced-fat milk without additional paperwork. (Read: Is whole milk headed back to schools?)

The petition drive also asks parents and others to urge local school boards and other groups to pass resolutions supporting whole milk being allowed in schools.

Petition organizers say whole milk (standardized to 3.25% fat) can support the health, well-being and learning readiness of schoolchildren. A letter from Katie Sattazahn Womelsdorf, representing the grassroots Pennsylvania Dairy Advisory Committee, includes several pages of supporting evidence and infographics supporting the nutritional value of whole milk.

Attempts to expand school feeding program milk offerings are 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. Published reports indicate school milk consumption has declined by hundreds of millions of half pints over recent years at a time school enrollment was growing.

Additional recent proposals addressing school milk have included the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019. That bill does not expand the varieties of milk that may be offered in schools but rather preserves the USDA policy which allows schools to offer students low-fat and fat-free milk, including low-fat (1%) flavored milk. The bill permits individual school districts to determine which milk varieties to offer their students, provided they align with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Early in 2019, the USDA advanced a final rule – titled “The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium Requirements” – which broadened the milk options in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program by allowing local operators to permanently offer flavored low-fat milk. For consistency across nutrition programs, it also allows flavored low-fat milk in the Special Milk Program for Children and in the Child and Adult Care Food Program for participants ages 6 and older.

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Adding whole milk to the school lunchroom menu won’t be as simple as changing orders from low-fat to higher-fat or whole-milk varieties. Revisions to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – updated every five years and currently going through the revision process – are seen as critical to expanded milk offerings in schools. The “2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans” update is scheduled for release at the end of 2020.

Beyond providing dietary recommendations, the document is also used as the basis for dairy options served as part of the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs and other federal feeding programs. (Read: Research seeks to fill milk ‘whole’ in dietary guidelines.)

Read also: When dairy milk options are expanded for schools, everyone wins.  end mark

Dave Natzke
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