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Secretary Vilsack Stresses Importance of Milk in Schools

Jun 18, 2015
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce at a hearing on Tuesday that he’s concerned about declining milk consumption in schools because, “in terms of the nutritional bang for the buck, there’s probably nothing better than a glass of milk.” He agreed to work with Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) on the bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act of 2015, H.R. 2407, which is aimed at reversing this trend.

Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Minority Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 24 other House representatives held the hearing to review the impact of nutritional standards on schools and families. They questioned Vilsack about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids of 2010 and discussed the future implementation of child nutrition programs.

While highlighting the nutritional importance of milk, Representative Thompson offered statistics that demonstrated the drastic decline. “Schools served 187 million fewer half pints of milk in 2012-2014 despite enrollment increasing,” he said. 

When Thompson asked Vilsack if he was concerned about the decline, the Secretary said, “There ought to be some way of working with your proposal, or a similar proposal, to provide a bit more flexibility and hopefully we would see more consumption of milk.” The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2015 would help preserve milk’s integral role in school meals by reaffirming the requirement that the varieties of milk are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It also would place a cap of 150 calories on each eight-ounce serving and allow milk to be offered in the same age-appropriate container sizes as competing beverages.

View a brief video with highlights of the conversation between Thompson and Vilsack.

Referring to a recent report on school milk consumption by the National Dairy Council, Representative Courtney said kids have increased their consumption of sugared beverages with empty calories, which have displaced milk. He said the bill would help to reduce childhood obesity, a goal that is shared by the Administration.

Committee members from both parties discussed their visits to school cafeterias in their districts and expressed support for healthy school meals. They mentioned multiple issues to be considered during the process of reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, including cost and food waste, sodium-reduction targets, food insecurity and summer meals, infant formula options and food packages allowed in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, and Molly Pfaffenroth, IDFA assistant for legislative affairs, attended the hearing. For more information, contact Saunders at rsaunders@idfa.org.

 
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