During the final Childhood Nutrition Listening Session in Denver, Colo., last week, the Leprino Foods Company detailed the value that cheese brings to school lunches. Calling for child nutrition guidelines to balance nutritional goals with the reality of what kids will eat, Leprino joined other IDFA members who participated in the summer-long series of listening sessions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Cheese has an important role that should be protected in the school lunch program because of its value as a nutrient dense food," said Monica Ganley, a dairy analyst with Leprino Foods. "Cheese is an excellent source of the protein that children need. A single serving of low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese contains seven grams of protein and 80 calories. We believe that the incorporation of cheese as an ingredient in foods has the dual benefit of enhancing the nutrition of other food groups and increasing the consumption of other nutritious but less popular foods.
"We recognize that there is a tension between the tremendous nutritional benefits of cheese and its fat content in its full fat form," Ganley added. "We and many other cheese manufacturers have accepted the challenge of developing lower fat varieties that may be better suited for the school lunch program in the context of today’s obesity concerns."
Read Ganley's testimony The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which includes the school lunch and breakfast programs, is scheduled for congressional action early next year. In 2007, USDA spent $250 million to purchase and donate mozzarella, natural American and process cheese for school meals.
IDFA encourages members to submit testimony directly to USDA before the comment period ends on October 15. For more information and help preparing comments, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA senior director of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.