Earlier this year Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new proposal for updating nutrition requirements for school meals served in federal feeding programs. Acknowledging the nutrition contributions of dairy foods, the proposal maintains fluid milk and dairy products as important components of all school breakfasts and lunches, but some new mandates could affect the types of dairy products available.
All schools are expected to implement the changes to federally funded meals beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 30 million students, or about half the student population, eat school lunches every day, and 10 million eat school breakfasts daily.
Consistent with IDFA's position and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA will continue to require a variety of fluid milk to be served with every lunch and breakfast, including both low-fat or free-fat. But the choices of flavored milk would be limited, only allowing fat-free varieties.
Low-Fat Flavored Milk Should Be Allowed as Part of School Meals
There are challenges to providing nutritious milk choices children will consume while meeting the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. IDFA believes strongly that offering low-fat flavored milk along with fat-free flavored milk can help meet these challenges, helping children maintain and increase milk consumption.
Flavored milk is an important source of nutrients in school meals and in children's diets overall. As with the rest of the foods and beverages provided in school meals, milk needs to compete favorably with other beverages allowed inside and outside schools. If milk isn't as desirable as other beverages that children can bring from home or purchase in a convenience store after school, they will skip the milk and its nutritional benefits.
Flavored low-fat milk has the same levels of fat and saturated fat as unflavored low-fat milk, while containing some additional calories from sweeteners. Although the modest amount of sugars in flavored milk easily fits into children's calorie budgets and into the calorie allowances for school meals. IDFA will urge USDA to include low-fat flavored milk with a limit of 150 calories as a choice for school meals.
Comments on the proposed rule are due by April 13, 2011. Read the full proposed rule here. IDFA will be filing extensive comments to USDA to support the role of dairy products in school meals and keeping low-fat flavored milk as a choice.
USDA is seeking input from citizens and interested parties, including consumer groups, nutritionists, mothers and even school children, about these proposed changes. IDFA is reaching out to ask people to tell USDA to keep low-fat flavored milk as a choice in school meals for kids by commenting at www.Regulations.gov.