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Nutrition Collaboration Expands Governmentwide Efforts

September 6, 2023

  • Filed multiple sets of comments with USDA on protecting dairy in WIC; ensuring schools can continue to serve healthful dairy products in school meals; and reducing the burden for schools in low-income areas to utilize the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to qualify students for school meal programs
  • Engaged in the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, submitting written comments on the draft scientific questions and protocols
  • Helped organize five bipartisan messages from members of Congress to USDA calling on the Department to protect dairy in WIC and continue the allowance of flavored milk in schools
  • Engaged USDA in an ongoing, collaborative dialogue regarding dairy’s value to nutrition programs, especially in providing vital nutrients and encouraging participation
  • Joined dairy nutrition Hill champions in building broad bipartisan support for returning 2% and whole milk to school meal programs,

NMPF’s regulatory affairs and government relations staff broadening and deepening NMPF’s nutrition policy work in a highly coordinated effort that aims to protect and expand access to healthful dairy foods in federal nutrition programs. The team has focused this year on strengthening dairy’s robust presence in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school breakfast and lunch programs, and on the next update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

NMPF has been engaged in the update process to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be released in 2025, submitting comments on the proposed scientific questions and protocols which inform the conduct of systematic reviews and food pattern modeling that will form the science base of the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines.

NMPF also has engaged members of Congress to ensure USDA hears from its fellow policy makers regarding dairy in WIC and school meals. Beginning in March and continuing through the summer, staff helped organize five bipartisan messages sent from lawmakers to the department. Two focused on the importance of protecting dairy in WIC, one Senate letter and one House letter. Both explained the vital importance of dairy’s nutrients for the life stages covered by the WIC program, urging USDA not to reduce the amount of dairy that participants can access through the program. The other three messages call on USDA to keep allowing flavored milk in schools, noting the central role flavored milk plays providing students the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

NMPF also met with USDA multiple times to discuss technical or specialized information beyond its submitted comments. The expert information brought to USDA included:

  • Meal modeling that depicts how sodium and sugar levels impact school nutrition directors’ ability to meet their students’ nutritional and taste needs
  • Working with IDFA to provide feedback on how reducing dairy in WIC would negatively impact the overall program
  • The growing body of evidence demonstrating dairy’s health benefits at all fat levels, asserting that these scientific studies must be included in the DGA review process.

NMPF also continued its effort to expand milk in school meals in both houses of Congress via the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1147, S. 1957). This bipartisan bill, led in the House by Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson, R-PA, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-WA, and led in the Senate by Sens. Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Peter Welch, D-VT, would allow schools to serve 2% and whole milk in meal programs in addition to the skim and 1% varieties currently allowed. NMPF built bipartisan support for the measure, including organizing a letter from 58 dairy organizations to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce urging the committee to advance the bill. The committee approved the legislation, and NMPF is hopeful the full House chamber will also approve the bill sometime this fall.