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With Senate’s MILK Act, a Bipartisan Movement Takes Hold to Bring Milk Back to Schools

Jun 12, 2019
If the first six months are any judge, 2019 may be known as the year milk returned to American schools.

Taking a leadership role in the Senate so kids at school have access to more of the milk varieties they consume at home, Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) today introduced the Milk In Lunches for Kids Act (MILK Act). The MILK Act would ensure states have more options when designing school breakfast and lunch programs, providing greater discretion and flexibility as to the inclusion of reduced fat (2%) and whole milk. The MILK Act is cosponsored by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). 

This new piece of legislation comes on the heels of two bipartisan efforts in the House of Representatives to expand milk offerings in schools.

Earlier in June, Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) introduced the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019 to preserve current policy which allows schools to offer students low-fat and fat-free milk, including low-fat (1%) flavored milk. The bill permits individual school districts to determine which milk varieties to offer their students. Congressman Thompson and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) led another effort earlier this year called the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, which—like Senator Toomey’s MILK Act—gives kids the opportunity to drink a glass of nutritious whole milk with breakfast and lunch each day. 

Throwing his support behind the Toomey MILK Act, IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes said, “Giving our kids the opportunity to drink a glass of nutritious milk with breakfast and lunch each day is one of the best things we can do for their health and development. We know that good nutrition is the foundation of health and wellness for children, a gateway to positive behavioral and cognitive development and the ability to learn. In schools, milk is a super food for kids, providing many of the essential nutrients that only milk can provide—including protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Our IDFA members are grateful to Senator Toomey for introducing this bill to allow schools more flexibility to offer the same types of milk that children and teens enjoy at home.”

The average American drinks 18 gallons of milk per year, down from 30 in the 1970s. Decline in milk consumption has coincided with beliefs about the healthfulness of milk and dairy products driven by often contradictory scientific research—the same phenomenon that weakened egg consumption for several years only to see that science reversed and egg sales rebound. 

But a growing body of new and overlooked scientific evidence about fuller-fat milk and dairy is changing this perception.

In fact, a new study released last summer in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition vindicated the fats found in dairy products such as whole milk. As the lead researcher in the that study told The Atlantic: “I think the big news here is that even though there is this conventional wisdom that whole-fat dairy is bad for heart disease, we didn’t find that,” said Marcia de Oliveira Otto, assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental science at the University of Texas School of Public Health. “And it’s not only us. A number of recent studies have found the same thing.”

It's clear that a growing body of evidence supports that dairy foods offer unparalleled health and consumer benefits to people of all ages. Now we have a growing body of Congress lending their support.

Will 2019 be known as the year milk returned to our schools? Watch this space for more news.
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