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1% Flavored Win Means More Work Ahead

March 3, 2022

NMPF celebrated a key win on school milk in February, an important step toward keeping the milk variety in meal programs more permanently.

USDA’s final rule addressing sodium, whole grain, and milk standards for school meal programs, released Feb. 7, protects the option of low-fat flavored milk for the National School Lunch program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Milk Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program through the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Maintaining the low-fat flavored milk option for schools has been a lengthy battle. Since USDA removed the popular option from schools with a 2012 rule, NMPF has led advocacy efforts to reinstate low-fat flavored milk more permanently as an option for schools, including supporting Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) leadership to advance their bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act (H.R. 4635).

“Ensuring kids have access to the nutrients they need to grow and thrive is a top priority for dairy,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern at the time of the announcement.  “We thank USDA for the rule’s provision that maintains schools’ ability to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk. One percent flavored milk is not only fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is also a nutrient-dense, low-fat healthy option kids will choose to drink.”

Mulhern also thanked Reps. Courtney and Thompson for their long-time leadership on this issue, noting NMPF looks “forward to continuing to work with them, USDA, and others to help ensure everyone has access to nutritious food.”

NMPF plans to do just that, as the Feb. 7 rule provides transitional standards only through the 2023-24 school year. While the rule does offer schools more certainty than they had prior to the rule, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services intends to implement additional regulations governing school meals beyond the 2023-24 school year to conform meal patterns more closely to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. NMPF will continue to work both with USDA on the longer-term rule and with Congress to codify the allowance of 1% flavored milk in schools, using the new rule to add momentum to NMPF’s efforts to secure the low-fat flavored option permanently.