WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of over 50 members of the US House of Representatives urged the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) via a letter to address and solve the issue of decreased consumption of dairy products in American schools. The letter, which was sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, stated that dairy products, specifically low-fat flavored milk, should be a permanent menu item in school cafeterias, as it is full of nutrients that growing children need. 

“Milk, including low-fat flavored milk, is an important way for children to access the nutrient profile of dairy, providing thirteen essential nutrients and unique health benefits,” said president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) Michael Dykes. “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.”

Many children rely on school meal programs to meet their nutritional needs. The letter, which cited the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, stated that 79% of children ages 9-13 were not consuming the suggested intake of dairy products. 

According to the letter, both the “2015 and 2020 editions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) amplified this concern, stating that, beginning at a young age, average dairy consumption falls short of recommended amounts.” 

“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,” Dykes said. “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.”

While current USDA flexibilities allow for schools and other educational institutions to offer low-fat flavored milk through the 2021-2022 school year, this proposal is urging administrators to make the flexibilities permanent, meaning that dairy products will be a guaranteed offering in school cafeterias. In addition to this, this proposal would remain consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

“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 Mulher, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Milk’s unique nutritional package is of great benefit to the nation’s schoolchildren, and this message to Secretary Vilsack strongly supports the critical goal of boosting consumption of essential nutrients of public health concern, including calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.”