Late last year, President Obama signed into law the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010" to reauthorize federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program that feed more than 30 million children a year. IDFA supported the bill, which called for updating school meal requirements and setting nutrition standards to regulate all foods and beverages sold in a la carte lines and vending machines on school campuses.
One year later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is nearing completion on its updates to the school meal rule, but proposed regulations for a la carte and other competing foods and beverages are lagging behind. Concerned about the timing of these separate regulations and complications that could ensue, 19 Milk Industry Foundation members last Friday sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, highlighting the continuing decline in milk consumption at schools and the corresponding rise of competing beverages available on school grounds.
Calling for a level playing field for milk, the leaders expressed their concern about the proposed rule and its expected release ahead of rules for a la carte products. Because most schools do not have separate coolers for different types of milk, they often combine milk for reimbursable meals and a la carte lines under one contract. Schools likely would use USDA's final school meal rule, which is expected to allow low-fat and fat-free white milk and only fat-free flavored milk, as their basis for all school milk purchases.
IDFA and MIF members believe that action would eliminate low-fat flavored milk from a la carte lines and vending machines, causing consumption to drop even more.
"Our industry would prefer an attainable restriction on added sugars or a calorie limit rather than the exclusion of low-fat flavored milk as proposed in the school meal rule," the letter said. "At the least, instead of finalizing milk in the school meal rule, USDA could develop interim administrative guidelines that would put milk on a level playing field with other beverages until the department has determined how all beverages, including milk, will be treated in the a la carte rule."
IDFA expects USDA to issue the final school meal rule early this year.
For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at email@example.com.
For more background on changes to the school nutrition standards, members may link to "Process for Updating Nutritional Standards for Milk Sold at Schools."