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Regulatory Changes Allow for More Milk Options in Schools

January 21, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced at the beginning of December that it was implementing regulatory changes needed to add low-fat flavored milk to more schools. The final rule was published later in the month in the Federal Register.

USDA’s decision allows schools to offer low-fat flavored milk without requiring them to demonstrate either a reduction in student milk consumption or an increase in school milk waste, bureaucratic hoops that had limited their ability to offer low-fat flavored milk in the 2017/18 school year.

“USDA’s own studies have shown that students drank less milk after low-fat chocolate milk was removed from schools,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Returning low-fat flavored milk to school menus will help reverse this harmful trend.  Milk has been an integral part of school meals since their beginning, and greater milk consumption equals better nutrition for America’s kids. The new rule is good news for schools, students and American dairy farmers.”

The final rule makes permanent the changes Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue implemented in 2017 to streamline the process by which schools can serve low-fat flavored milk. In 2012, the agency eliminated low-fat flavored milk in the school meal and a la carte programs, after which milk consumption in schools dropped. Students consumed 288 million fewer half-pints of milk from 2012-2015, even as public-school enrollments grew.

NMPF has long advocated that milk is an integral part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, and that greater milk consumption equals better nutrition for America’s kids. NMPF thanked the bipartisan efforts of numerous members of Congress who advocated for the rule change, most notably Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT).