Federal Meal and Snack Programs

USDA Releases Final Nutrition Standards for School Meals: January 25, 2012

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service published updated nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The final rule is in line with the proposed changes that were first announced in January 2011. The updated standards increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk in school meals. The standards aim to reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fat in meals, and establish minimum and maximum calorie levels for each age/grade group.

Milk continues to be an important part of school meals, and 8 ounces of fluid milk must be offered with breakfast and lunch. In addition, schools must offer at least two different milk options. However, the new standards allow only for low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free plain milk or fat-free flavored milk in the school meal programs. The rule no longer allows schools to offer whole milk or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk or low-fat flavored milk as part of the reimbursable meal. The new regulations do not set any specific calorie or sugar limits for fat-free flavored milk sold on the meal line, but with new calorie restrictions for meals, which include milk, schools will be seeking flavored milk with the least possible calories or possibly may limit flavored milk.

The standards for school meals will go into effect for the 2012-2013 school year and are available online.

Read the full NMPF press release


NMPF Comments on Proposed School Meal Regulations: April 13, 2011

The Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture proposed a new rule that would revise the meal patterns and nutrition requirements for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program to align them with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

NMPF submitted comments that focused on the nutrient package of milk and dairy foods, which will continue to be a core component of school meals, with fluid milk being offered at all meals.

NMPF also addressed the limit of flavored milk to skim only, proposing both fat-free and low-fat flavored milk be allowed in schools with a 150-calorie cap; and addressed nutritional equivalency of fluid milk substitutes (i.e., fortified soy beverages).

Read NMPF's full comments


Draft Regulations Require Milk in School Meals to be Low-Fat or Fat-Free: January 13, 2011

Draft regulations made public by the US Department of Agriculture today will update nutrition requirements for school feeding programs to make them consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One of the proposed changes will require all unflavored milk in school meals to be low-fat or fat-free and all flavored milk to be fat-free. While most milk served in schools today is low-fat, the proposed change limiting flavored milk to fat-free would require some schools to change because about 60 percent of flavored milk in schools today is 1% or higher.

Also, in a change that could affect many foods – including cheese and pizza – sodium in school meals is slated to be cut in half over 10 years.

The regulations are subject to a 90-day comment period and won’t be implemented until the 2012-2013 school year. Food and beverages sold through school vending machines and a la carte lines are not affected but will be covered under a separate regulation expected to be unveiled later this year. The USDA issued a sample menu to compare how future school lunches may change as a result of these new regulations.

The draft meal regulations for the first time impose limits on total calories and sodium in breakfasts and lunches. However, the nutrient targets can be averaged over five days, giving schools the flexibility to serve entrees like pizza, which may exceed the targets for a specific meal, as long as the targets are met over the course of a week. The draft regulation does not require schools to use only reduced-fat or low-fat cheese, although the nutrient caps will encourage schools to serve lower-sugar milk and yogurt and lower-fat cheese.

Cheese and yogurt still qualify as meat alternates in school meals, and the rules for substituting soy beverage for milk are also unchanged. They still require a note from a doctor or parent and any substitute must contain the nine nutrients for which milk is the No. 1 source in children’s diets.

The draft regulation would also require schools to serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. According to the USDA, they would add nearly $7 billion to the cost of school meals over five years, which could trigger opposition from school groups and others concerned about budget deficits at the state and local level.

NMPF will work with the National Dairy Council, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the Milk Processor Education Program to send comments to USDA on the regulations on behalf of the dairy industry.


Child Nutrition Bill Passes House: December 2, 2010

NMPF is applauding the House of Representatives for passing the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (S. 3307) on December 2, 2010, by a vote of 264-157. The bill will go to President Obama to be signed into law.

“School meals provide an important venue to help assure that children are consuming three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk products that are recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines," said Jerry Kozak, President and Chief Executive Office of NMPF. “We are pleased that the bill will improve the nutrition environment in schools by encouraging consumption of healthier foods like milk and milk products.” The bill, also known as the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” passed the Senate in August and includes $4.5 billion over 10 years in new funding.


USDA Accepts Comments on Changes to WIC Program: February 1, 2010

In comments to USDA, the National Milk Producers Federation supported efforts to update the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages to reflect current nutrition science. However, NMPF disagreed with USDA’s decision to require any changes in the program to be cost-neutral.

As NMPF stated in comments on the proposed rule, this would result in food packages that are based as much or more on cost as on science. In particular, NMPF felt the reductions in the amount of cheese that could be substituted for milk in the food packages were ill advised. Likewise, NMPF also believed that the Department’s interim rule failed to provide a healthy and popular proposed improvement in the WIC program in the decision to not include yogurt in the food packages, as had been recommended by the Institute of Medicine.



NMPF Urges IOM Committee to Maintain Focus on the Importance of Dairy Products in School Meal Programs: January 31, 2009

In a letter to the Institute of Medicine (IOM)'s Food and Nutrition Board committee reviewing school meal patterns and nutrient standards, NMPF encouraged the full inclusion of dairy products as the committee updated recommendations and criteria for school meal nutrition standards. As nutrient-rich foods that offer good value while providing many key nutrients that children need, including dairy products in school meal programs help ensure that children receive the nutrition they need.

The full letter is available here.