Whole Milk in School Meals

Support Whole Milk in School Meals!

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—acting on a congressional directive—removed whole and reduced-fat (2%) milk from federal school meals programs. Since then, school milk consumption and meal participation have declined, meaning children are consuming fewer essential nutrients. Parents, dieticians, physicians, farmers, and federal legislators are now leading a nationwide movement to reinstate whole and 2% milk in school meals. Learn more about the nutrition science supporting serving whole and 2% in school meals and how you can get involved in advocating for the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 below.

What the Science Says

Milk contains thirteen essential nutrients, including three of the four nutrients identified as dietary components of public health concern in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)—calcium, vitamin D and potassium. It is the number one source of protein, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium in the diets of children ages 2-18. Yet the DGA stresses that between 68% and 94% of school-age boys and girls are currently failing to meet recommended levels of dairy intake.

Whole and 2% milk options contain the same 13 essential nutrients and health benefits as low-fat and fat-free milk. At the same time, nutrition science has evolved in the past decade to show neutral or positive benefits of full-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, including less weight gain, neutral or lower risk of heart disease, and lower childhood obesity.

School meals are the most nutritious meal any American will eat, according to researchers at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. They are critical for ensuring children meet DGA recommendations for healthy dairy. This is especially the case for low-income children who receive 77% of their daily dairy milk consumption at school. When children do not drink milk at school, they miss out on a key opportunity to consume milk's unique nutrient profile and benefit from its positive impact on growth, development, healthy immune function, mental health, and overall wellness. Ensuring the 30 million children who participate in school meals programs have access to the nutritious milk options that meet their dietary preferences and requirements will help them benefit from the many health benefits that milk ahs to offer.

What Parents Are Saying

Large majorities of parents surveyed in a new Morning Consult national tracking poll commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association want to see whole and 2% milks back in school meals. Findings include:

How We Reinstate Whole and 2% Milk in School Meals

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 (H.R.1147, S.1957) would allow schools to once again provide children with a wide variety of milk options that meet their individual needs—whether that be whole or 2%, low-fat, or lactose-free milk. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in December by a wide margin of 33-99, while the U.S. Senate companion bill has been cosponsored by 14 bipartisan U.S. Senators.

Join us in advocating for this important bill! Visit the IDFA Campaign Center to send your U.S. Senators an email explaining the importance of the bill and urging them to cosponsor this legislation.

For more information on the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, please contact Rob Rosado at rrosado@idfa.org. For more information on the nutrition science on dairy, please contact Michelle Albee Matto at mmatto@idfa.org.

IDFA Staff Experts

Robert Rosado

Vice President, Legislative Affairs

Michelle Albee Matto, MPH, RDN

Associate Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Nutrition