Both the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the National Potato Council (NPC) praised the USDA’s updated school meal standards, but still have some concerns.
A final version of those standards was released Wednesday by the USDA following more than a year of public comment and review.
John Keeling, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Potato Council, said, “As growers of the most nutrient-rich and cost-efficient vegetable available to schools, U.S. potato farmers are pleased that USDA recognizes the importance of increasing the overall consumption of vegetables by children.”
Keeling did express concern about USDA’s final rule falling short of giving schools “flexibility in the breakfast program to meet nutritional goals within their constrained budgets.”
He says, “The rule’s prescriptive nature in promoting certain groups of vegetables over others will increase costs while handcuffing local schools’ abilities to meet USDA’s nutrition, caloric, fat and sodium requirements. We look forward to working with school food service professionals around the country as they evaluate the final rule and work to increase vegetable consumption by students at both breakfast and lunch.”
NMPF’s President and CEO Jerry Kozack says “The updated nutrition standards require that low-fat or fat-free milk remain a part of every school meal. That’s essential, given that milk is the single largest contributor of nutrients in kids’ diets. A single glass of milk delivers a very affordable package of nine essential nutrients important to good health, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins A, D and B12.” In addition, Kozak said, including both plain and flavored milk in school meals is a sure-fire way to make diets more nutritious.
“Milk, including chocolate milk, is the No. 1 source of three out of four nutrients cited by the U.S Dietary guidelines as lacking in children’s diets,” he said, “and chocolate milk is the drink-of-choice in school meal lines. Research shows that milk consumption can drop 35 percent or more when flavored milk is removed.”
Kozak also expressed some disappointment with the rule, preferring USDA to allow low-fat flavored milk in school meals along with fat-free milk. He says, “It’s essential that chocolate milk, in particular, remain available in school cafeterias to assure children are getting the nutrients milk provides.”
Kozak noted that, since 2006, the dairy industry has proactively reduced the sugar in flavored milk by nearly 40 percent, and flavored milk contributes only three percent of the added sugar in children’s diets.
“By comparison, fruit drinks and soft drinks contribute 45 percent of added sugar in kids’ diets,” Kozak said, “and many of these beverages provide few or no nutritional benefits.”
Kozak also praised USDA for keeping low-fat and fat-free yogurt and cheese on school breakfast and lunch menus.
Source: NPC & NMPF