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A Whole Milk Renaissance in Schools?

Author: Matthew Good MS, RD, LD

Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

First introduced in the House in February 2023, whole milk provision in school seems more likely than ever after a December 13th three hundred thirty “yay” to ninety-nine “nay” vote for H.R. 1147 – Whole Milk for Health Kids Act of 2023. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

What the Act Does

The Act effectuates modification of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1758(a)(2)) in two specific ways. First, the amendment of subparagraph A of Section 9(a)(2):

Current

(A) IN GENERAL – Lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program under this Act –

(i) shall offer students a variety of fluid milk. Such milk shall be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans published under section 301 of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 5341);

(ii) may offer students flavored and unflavored fluid milk and lactose-free fluid milk; and

(iii) shall provide a substitute for fluid milk for students whose disability restricts their diet, on receipt of a written statement from a licensed physician that identifies the disability that restricts the student’s diet and that specifies the substitute for fluid milk.

Proposed

(A) IN GENERAL – Lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program under this Act –

(i) shall offer students a variety of fluid milk;

(ii) may offer students flavored and unflavored organic or non-organic whole, reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free fluid milk and lactose-free fluid milk; and

(iii) shall provide a substitute for fluid milk for students whose disability restricts their diet, on receipt of a written statement from a licensed physician that identifies the disability that restricts the student’s diet and that specifies the substitute for fluid milk.

Second, by adding subparagraphs D through F

D) SATURATED FAT – Milk fat included in any fluid milk provided under subparagraph (A) shall not be considered saturated fat for purposes of measuring compliance with the allowable average saturated fat content of a meal under section 210.10 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations).

 

(E) PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN PURCHASES – The Secretary shall prohibit schools participating in the school lunch program under this Act from purchasing or offering milk produced by China state-owned enterprises.

 

(F) LIMITATION ON AUTHORITY – The Secretary may not prohibit any school participating in the school lunch program under this Act from offering students the milk described in subparagraph (A)(ii).

 

Questions Left Unanswered

As a school nutrition program director, at first glance, I would like clarification on a few pieces of information.

While it is addressed that the saturated fat content of fluid milk would not be counted toward meal totals, I am left wondering how the added kcalories of offering whole milk would affect meal planning and compliance.

How would the potential passing of the act affect the mandatory variety of milk provision of a school?

Finally, if passed in the Senate, how would these changes affect the Proposed Updates to the School Nutrition Standards, specifically for added sugar? With the USDA trying to reign in added sugar content in school meals, and a significant contributor to that total is flavored milk, will the students’ favorite beverage find itself being forced out of the program?

As of December 14th, 2023, H.R. 1147 was received in the Senate and placed on the Legislative Calendar. Follow i3 Education for updates on whole milk in schools, and all things K-12 nutrition on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Matthew is a private practice registered dietitian and freelance content provider for i3 Education, with over a decade of experience in K-12 nutrition.

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