Edge pushes for expanding milk options in schools
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Posted by: Aaron Stauffacher, assoc. director of gov. affairs
It is no secret that children want beverages that taste good. Milk is one that is not only delicious but nutritious.
Unfortunately, milk options available to schoolkids were curtailed as a result of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which limited the flexibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to offer better-tasting options due to concerns over fat content.
The result was that children at school had access only to unflavored low-fat (1%) and flavored and unflavored non-fat (skim) varieties. Not surprisingly, school milk consumption decreased.
The USDA took an important step forward in 2017 by allowing schools to obtain a waiver so kids could have flavored low-fat milk. As a result, children are demanding more milk. Lawmakers have taken notice and are working to expand the options.
We are pleased to report that three different bills have been introduced in Congress since the session began in January.
U.S. Rep. G.T. Thompson, R-Penn., introduced The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, H.R. 832, with nine other original cosponsors early this session. Edge has been urging additional lawmakers to sign on and included the bill as a priority during our Dairy Speaks in D.C. member lobbying trip to Washington in March. The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act now includes 28 cosponsors, including eight representatives from districts with Edge farms. Many of the lawmakers signed on after we brought it their attention. A similar bill introduced in the last congressional session gained only 13 cosponsors.
Just recently, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., introduced the Milk in Lunches for Kids Act of 2019, or MILK Act, S. 1810, in the Senate. Although not an exact companion bill to H.R. 832 in the House, the bill would accomplish the same objective of including up to flavored whole milk in the federal school lunch program. The bill goes one step further by directing the secretary of agriculture to exclude fat from milk from the calculation of fat content in a meal. The senators are seeking other cosponsors.
The third bill, the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019, H.R. 3125, was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., along with 25 other representatives in the House. The bill would only specifically include flavored low-fat milks. It appears to be a compromise between current law and H.R. 832 to get more lawmakers rallied around the issue. The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019 is now up to 34 cosponsors, seven of which are from Edge’s market. While H.R. 3125 doesn’t go as far as the others, it is helping raise the profile of the issue in Congress. No companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.
Unfortunately, none of these three bills has yet to receive a committee hearing, which is necessary for them to be considered by the full legislative chamber.
However, the Wisconsin Assembly recently announced bipartisan support of all efforts to increase consumption of milk in schools. Our sister organization, the Dairy Business Association, distributed this press release praising state lawmakers’ support.
Each of these bills recognizes that higher-fat milk options would give children a better-tasting beverage that is overall more wholesome and nutritious than sugary drinks. Edge will continue to urge lawmakers to sign onto these bills, elevate the issue in Congress and news media, and hopefully help carry a solution across the finish line.