WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2023—The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) today urged swift passage of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which would allow for whole and reduced-fat varieties of milk to once again be served in school cafeterias, enjoys strong bipartisan support of 134 cosponsors in the House. The chamber is expected to vote on the legislation this week.
IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes released the following statement in support of the legislation:
“After more than a decade of waiting, it’s time to lift the ban on whole and 2% milk and give children more nutritious choices in school cafeterias. The bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 would allow schools to once again provide children with a wide variety of nutritious milk options to meet their individual preferences, whether that be whole or 2% milk—which three-quarters of consumers purchase from grocery stores—or low-fat or lactose-free milk. Children should once again be able to access the type of nutritious milk they prefer in federal school meals programs.
“Whole and reduced-fat milk alike provide children with 13 essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function, and overall wellness. Since whole and 2% milk were banned from school meals menus more than a decade ago, meal participation has declined while food waste has climbed, meaning our children are actually consuming fewer essential nutrients. This is especially concerning considering underconsumption of milk and dairy products is prevalent among school-aged children, where between 68% and 76.2% of school age boys and between 77.4% and 94.3% of school age girls are failing to meet recommended levels of dairy intake per federal guidelines. A wide majority of parents and medical and nutrition professionals know that offering these options increases school meal participation, reduces food waste, and provides nutritionally valuable school meals for children and adolescents. In fact, up to 80% of voting adults and parents support offering whole or 2% milk as part of school meals, according to surveys conducted by Morning Consult.
“IDFA urges the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this important child nutrition legislation and calls for swift action on the companion bill in the U.S. Senate.”
Background on Milk Options in School Meals
For many decades, whole and reduced-fat milk options were staples in school cafeterias. Yet in 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed these options from federal school meals standards. In the years since, school milk consumption dropped, school meal participation dropped, and more food is wasted in school cafeterias. When children do not drink milk at school, they miss out on a key opportunity to consume milk’s unique nutrient profile and benefit from its positive impact on growth, development, healthy immune function, mental health, and overall wellness.
Most American households have whole and 2% milk in the refrigerator—in fact, 75% of all retail and institutional sales of milk are whole and 2%, according to PRIME Consulting. Whole, reduced-fat and lactose-free milk contain the same nutrients as all other fluid milk, including calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. Importantly, recent research has shown that there is no harm, and some potential benefits of full-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, including less weight gain and neutral or lower risk of heart disease. Several recent research studies (including systematic reviews and meta-analysis) examining the effect of higher fat milk consumption found that it was associated with lower childhood obesity and concluded that dietary guidelines that recommend reduced-fat milk versions might not lower the risk of childhood obesity.
Survey firm Morning Consult has conducted several polls on behalf of IDFA to gauge opinions of voting adults and parents on the question offering whole or 2% milk in schools. The surveys from 2019 and 2022 show significant support among adults and parents for adding whole and 2% milk back to school meals, including large majorities of both men and women, Democrats and Republicans, and people from varying income backgrounds. By reintroducing whole (3.25% milkfat) and reduced-fat (2% milkfat) milk to school cafeterias, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 would allow children to choose from the full suite of milk options that meet their individual needs and provide them with milk’s 13 essential nutrients.
For more information on how milk nourishes children, visit here.