Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt are at the foundation of healthy eating patterns. Dairy consumption helps Americans meet recommendations for calcium, vitamin D and potassium, three of the four under-consumed nutrients of public health concern. Dairy foods also make important contributions to the consumption of protein, magnesium, vitamin A and other nutrients in the U.S. diet. In all, milk is a unique package of 13 essential nutrients that together form an unmatched nutritional benefit.
All age groups, beginning at age 4 and including nearly 80 percent of youth ages 9-13, fall short of meeting dairy intake recommendations. This gap between recommendations and reality, and its resulting negative health consequences, means more work is needed to encourage dairy consumption through expanded offerings and enhanced education. Meeting daily recommendations of dairy foods can help Americans close key nutrient gaps and contribute to healthier eating.
NMPF supports federal nutrition programs that help feed Americans struggling with food security and access, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, as well as enhancing these programs to combat hunger, meet the needs of Americans, and provide nutritious dairy products to program beneficiaries.
NMPF also supports legislative efforts to expand school milk choices to give kids access to healthy, nutrient-dense options. These include the School Milk Nutrition Act, which would permit individual school districts to determine which milk varieties to offer their students consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which would allow both unflavored and flavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias.
- Most Americans don’t consume the recommended amounts of dairy foods. But even at current intakes, dairy foods supply more than half of the calcium and vitamin D in the U.S. diet.
- Federal food assistance programs authorized by Congress and administered by USDA aim to promote healthy eating and provide Americans with better access to nutritious food, including dairy products.
- Milk is the top source of 13 essential nutrients in the diets of children and youth aged 18 and younger. School meal programs play an important role in promoting the consumption of healthy foods, including dairy. They allow the consumption, promotion, and modeling of healthy dietary patterns.
- Flavored milk has long been a popular choice in schools and provides the same essential nutrients as unflavored milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics declared that “consideration of a beverage such as flavored milk provides a good example of the balance needed to limit added sugars and yet promote nutrient-rich foods.”
- Requirements that flavored milk distributed in schools must be fat-free should be removed. Not only does this make milk less attractive on school menus, but recent evidence shows the many health benefits of dairy at all fat levels, making this requirement unnecessary and unjustified.