The 1% milk option, which has been allowed since 2017, is included in new transitional standards for school nutrition programs that will be in place until a final rule is created for the 2024-25 school year.
“We are pleased to see USDA reaffirm the importance of allowing flavored low-fat milk as an option in our school food programs,” Edge president Brody Stapel said.
“Milk’s nutritional benefits for school-age children have been proven time and again, and offering low-fat flavored milk encourages consumption.
“Recent research shows that fuller-fat dairy foods are considered part of a healthy diet. We applaud USDA’s move and look forward to working with the department to ensure that fuller-fat dairy products are recognized as healthy options, even for school nutrition programs.”
NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern said, “Ensuring kids have access to the nutrients they need to grow and thrive is a top priority for dairy. We thank USDA for the rule’s provision that maintains schools’ ability to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk. One percent flavored milk is not only fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is also a nutrient-dense, low-fat healthy option kids will choose to drink.
“I would also like to thank Representatives Joe Courtney and G.T. Thompson for their long-time leadership on this issue. We look forward to continuing to work with them, USDA, and others to help ensure everyone has access to nutritious food.”
In 2012, USDA updated school meal requirements to reflect the most recent dietary guidelines for Americans at that time. The update included restricting school milk choices to unflavored low-fat, flavored fat-free and unflavored fat-free. Milk consumption in schools dropped significantly.
In 2017, Congress began requiring USDA to allow states to grant hardship-based exemptions to school nutrition standards, allowing them to serve flavored low-fat (1%) milk. USDA implemented those standards, which were in place when the pandemic hit. USDA continued allowing flexibility in the program to ensure schools could offer nutritious meals amid pandemic-related supply chain issues.
The transitional standards announced last week provide more clarity going forward for schools, Edge said. A proposed final rule will be released later this year and is projected to be implemented for the 2024-25 school year.