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USDA Outlines New School Milk Options; IDFA Posts Materials Members Can Use

May 31, 2017

With many schools getting ready for summer recess, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a memo that explains how foodservice authorities can gain exemptions to bring back low-fat flavored milk to their cafeterias and campuses in the fall. The memo implements language in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill that was enacted in early May, which allows states to grant special exemption requests from schools for the service of low-fat flavored milk in school meal programs and as a competitive food.

Issued by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the memo said schools must demonstrate and document a reduction in student milk consumption or an increase in school milk waste to qualify for the exemption, which has also been called a waiver. FNS outlined the type of data schools can use to document their requests, including, but not limited to:

  • A significant decrease in milk sales since implementation of the current meal patterns;
  • Declining milk sales despite offering alternative products and brands;
  • Results from a food-waste study indicating significant waste of fluid milk;
  • Significant negative feedback from students and parents regarding the lack of low-fat flavored milk in schools; and
  • Significant negative feedback from students regarding the palatability of fat-free flavored milk.

Although the states have the final say on granting exemptions, the FNS memo “strongly encourages” state agencies to allow low-fat flavored milk options to schools expressing interest.

IDFA has developed materials that members can use to help schools apply for exemptions and support their requests. Members may log in below to access the materials.

Proclamation by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Also last month, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation that directs USDA to change its regulations to allow schools to serve low-fat flavored milk in schools without a special exemption. However, this rule change will take many months to accomplish, at a minimum, so it’s unlikely to be implemented in time for milk contracts for the coming school year. That means schools that want to serve low-fat flavored milk during the coming school year will need to comply with the special exemption requirements outlined in the FNS memo.

For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at cfrye@idfa.org, or Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy, at dcarlin@idfa.org.

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