The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) shared their support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule maintaining low-fat, flavored milk and other needed flexibilities in USDA child nutrition program meal requirements through the 2023-2024 school year.
Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO of IDFA shared, “Today’s announcement from USDA clears up several years of confusion and takes a positive step toward restoring more varieties of milk to the school meals program. The final rule allows schools to continue to serve milk that students prefer to drink while remaining consistent with the Dietary Guidelines. The rule gives clarity to school meals professionals and food makers as they plan ahead amid supply chain challenges, and it will improve students’ access to dairy products, particularly milk and its 13 essential nutrients, and cheese as a nutrient-rich protein alternate.
“In 2020, the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report found that a staggering 79 percent of 9- to 13-year-olds are not meeting the recommended intake of dairy foods and thereby underconsuming a variety of nutrients during childhood and adolescence, including potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. Children of all ages are falling short of these recommendations, and they rely on school meals to meet their nutritional needs.
“Today’s announcement helps to encourage school meal participation by maintaining a wider variety of milk offerings that kids enjoy. Milk is a major source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the diets of children 2-18 years of age. In fact, about 73 percent of the calcium available in the food supply is provided by milk and milk products. Moreover, it has been proven time and again in schools across the country that when flavored milks are available, kids not only drink more milk—they are more likely to participate in the school meal programs and waste less food, thus truly benefiting from dairy’s important vitamins and nutrients.
“Yet for years, schools have been burdened with regulations that hamper their ability to provide children with nutrient-dense dairy products. First, whole milk disappeared; then 2%; and then finally 1% flavored milk, which kids prefer compared to non-fat flavored milk. On top of that, schools have more recently had to plan for overly stringent sodium targets that would effectively remove cheese from the menu since sodium is necessary in cheesemaking.
“IDFA is grateful to USDA for providing needed certainty around school meal flexibilities in the near-term, and we look forward to working with the Secretary and the Department to ensure that nutrient-rich dairy products remain core long-term components of the child nutrition and school meals programs.”
Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF added, “Ensuring kids have access to the nutrients they need to grow and thrive is a top priority for dairy. We thank USDA for the rule’s provision that maintains schools’ ability to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk. One percent flavored milk is not only fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is also a nutrient-dense, low-fat healthy option kids will choose to drink. I would also like to thank Representatives Joe Courtney and G.T. Thompson for their long-time leadership on this issue. We look forward to continuing to work with them, USDA, and others to help ensure everyone has access to nutritious food.”