Reps. Courtney, Thompson Lead Bipartisan Coalition in Introducing the School Milk Nutrition Act
WASHINGTON, DC—Yesterday, Representatives Joe Courtney (CT-02) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15) introduced the School Milk Nutrition Act (H.R. 4635), bipartisan legislation to expand milk options for students and reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools. The bill would codify 2018 rulemaking from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provided schools with the option to serve a variety of healthy milk options to students, including low-fat milk with flavor. The bill also requires the milk offered to be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs)—and low-fat flavored milk remains consistent. Reps. Courtney and Thompson are both members of the bipartisan Congressional Dairy Caucus, where Courtney serves as Co-Chairman. Upon introduction today, their bill was co-sponsored by a thirty-seven other Members of Congress from across the country, and from both sides of the aisle.
The School Milk Nutrition Act is necessary because schools have experienced uncertainty over whether they can provide low-fat flavored milk to students. In November 2017, USDA announced the School Meal Flexibility Rule to provide regulatory changes for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and in December 2018, the final rule provided schools with the option to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk. However, that rulemaking was challenged in court, and in April 2020 a U.S. District Court vacated and remanded the final rule to USDA for violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Importantly, the milk provision of the rule was not challenged. Although FY 2021 appropriations language and certain waivers have provided some near-term certainty for school districts, long-term, there remains significant uncertainty for students, school administrators, and the larger supply chain. To that end, the School Milk Nutrition Act will codify and maintain the option for schools to offer 1% flavored milk at meals.
“No industry was hit harder by COVID-19 than America’s dairy farmers, and our bipartisan bill would mean a big step forward in helping them come back stronger than before,” said Rep. Courtney. “Our restaurants are opening back up, hotels are starting to see traffic again—these are some of the chief purchasers of milk and dairy products, and our bill would give farmers a real boost by ensuring that our public schools, the other major purchaser of dairy, can offer American students a variety of healthy milk options. Milk is the cornerstone of a healthy meal for our nation’s kids, and it provides a solid foundation for a healthy school menu, but unfortunately we’ve seen that when schools remove options, milk consumption declines. Our bill will positively impact the quality of children’s diets, while also supporting our local family dairies.”
“Milk is the only beverage with nine essential nutrients and vitamins and can provide students with the nutrition they need throughout the day,” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson. “The School Milk Nutrition Act helps reverse previous policies that demonized milk and makes into law USDA’s decision to allow 1% flavored milk back into school meals, ultimately providing students more options.”
“Milk is crucial to school nutrition. For generations it’s been clear: more milk means healthier schoolkids,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the national Milk Producers Federation. “We commend Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) for crafting bipartisan legislation that preserves low-fat flavored milk as an option in schools, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Temporary flexibility on this issue is already advancing in Congress; we appreciate that and support its enactment. This legislation would further that progress by letting school districts know they can keep offering low-fat flavored milk for years to come.”
“One of the best ways to help our growing children and teens get the nutrients they need is by providing healthy dairy options at school that they will actually drink,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “We are grateful to Representatives Courtney and Thompson for introducing this bill that will maintain the option for schools to offer low-fat 1% flavored milk to students. Most students prefer these options at school because many enjoy them at home. The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2021 is a good first step toward providing expanded milk options that will help ensure students get the thirteen essential nutrients that milk uniquely provides, including powerful protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium.”
From 2014-2016, schools served 213 million fewer half pints of milk, even though school enrollment was growing. Children over four years-old are not meeting the recommended daily servings of dairy based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Declining milk consumption in schools not only affects students, but negatively affects dairy farms and farm families across the country. Providing students the option to consume low-fat milk with flavor, has the potential to positively affect milk consumption trends while supporting local dairy farmers.
The bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act is commonsense bipartisan legislation that will provide schools with certainty that they will continue to have flexibility in providing nutritious milk varieties to students, including low-fat flavored milk.
The School Milk Nutrition Act is co-sponsored by Representatives: Don Bacon (R-NE-02), Sanford Bishop (D-GA-02), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08), Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Angie Craig (D-MN-02), Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19), Russ Fulcher (R-ID-01), Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06), Chris Jacobs (R-NY-26), John Joyce (R-PA-13), Ron Kind (D-WI-03), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-02), Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), Tracey Mann (R-KS-01), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Dan Meuser (R-PA-09), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA-14), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), David Scott (D-GA-13), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA-11), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-03), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), David Valadao (R-CA-21), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ-02), Peter Welch (D-VT-AL).