WASHINGTON – A bill that would bring whole and reduced-fat varieties of milk to school cafeterias passed Dec. 13 in the US House of Representatives. Now advocates want to see the Senate follow suit.

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 received strong support, 330 to 99, to pass in the House. International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes said the organization is calling for “swift action” with the companion bill in the Senate, so schools can “once again provide children with a wide variety of milk options that deliver essential nutrients and meet their individual needs — whether that be whole or 2%, low-fat or lactose-free milk.”

Whole and 2% milk products were removed from school meals 10-plus years ago, Dykes noted, adding that such products contain “13 essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function and overall wellness.”

The IDFA leader also said meal participation has declined, food waste has increased and school-aged children are consuming fewer milk and dairy products.

“At the same time, nutrition science has evolved in the past decade to show neutral or positive benefits of full-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, including less weight gain, neutral or lower risk of heart disease, and lower childhood obesity,” Dykes said. “A wide majority of parents and medical and nutrition professionals recognize that offering these options increases school meal participation, reduces food waste and provides nutritionally valuable school meals for children and adolescents.”

National dairy cooperative Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) also applauded the passage of the bill in the House. In addition to the protein in real dairy products, DFA pointed to whole milk’s other health benefits for children, such as immunity, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.

DFA also said bringing whole and 2% milk products to schools provides “affordable, unmatched and wholesome nutrition,” adding that the bill’s passage aligns with “scientific research that demonstrates the benefits of real dairy at all fat levels and consumer preference.”