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Members Meet with Administrator Rowe to Discuss Dairy's Role in Schools

Jun 27, 2012

During Washington Conference, several IDFA members and staff met with officials from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss dairy's role in competitive school foods. USDA is expected to issue a proposed rule early next year to set nutritional standards for competitive foods sold in schools, including a la carte sales as well as items sold in vending machines and school stores. 

IDFA expects the proposal to be based on the Institute of Medicine report issued in 2007, but there could be significant changes from that report. If the recommended restrictions on fat, sodium and added sugar are retained, they would keep many dairy products out of schools.

Audrey Rowe, administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service, and five of her staff welcomed the group from IDFA and listened to their concerns. Rowe oversees the department's efforts in child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. She also is responsible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and the supplemental program for feeding Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

"Administrator Rowe urged our members to submit comments when the proposed rule is issued," said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, who attended the meeting. "She wants to hear from all industry participants who could be affected before her department issues the final rule."

Best-Selling a la Carte Foods

Milk, ice cream and pizza are top 10 best-selling items through a la carte lines, according to the School Food Purchase Study – III Final Report published by USDA in March. In elementary schools, milk ranks second and ice cream is the third top-selling a la carte item, while pizza is the number four top selling item. For middle and high schools, pizza rises to the number 3 best-seller, while ice cream and milk fall to number five and number 10, respectively. 

At the meeting, Fred Calvert of Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc., discussed milk in schools and outlined the industry's extensive reformulation efforts. Sue Taylor of Leprino Foods Company reviewed her company's efforts to offer lower-sodium, lower-fat cheese and other pizza options.

Paul Kruse of Blue Bell Creameries and Brian Perry of Perry's Ice Cream Company discussed the role of ice cream and frozen desserts in schools. Perry, who is also chair of the International Ice Cream Association, reviewed his company's reformulation efforts to make a variety of products that meet the guidelines of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Kruse discussed his company's line of school products that are lower in fat and sugar, and each highlighted the nutritional benefits, such as calcium, protein and vitamin A, that ice cream and frozen desserts can provide.

They urged USDA to consider using nutritional standards for ice cream that were similar to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation standards, based on a weight of sugar, instead of the IOM proposal that would limit sugar based on a percentage of calories.

Also attending the meeting was Beth Johnson, a registered dietitian and consultant to IDFA who previously worked as chief assistant to the deputy secretary and as deputy chief of staff at USDA.

For more information, contact Frye at

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