With students past the midyear point for this school year, changes for the school milk program continue to be addressed across the country.
This week, parents weighed in on their support for bipartisan legislation to provide whole and 2% milk in public schools, the dairy checkoff announced a pilot project for hot chocolate milk in schools, and a California congressman called for supply chain changes to ensure the availability of school milk.
Parents support whole milk and 2% milk options
In a recent poll commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), 89% of parents agree that whole milk and 2% milk should be options for children in public schools.
Morning Consult conducted the poll between Jan. 18-20 and surveyed a sample of 629 parents with children in public school. They also learned that 94% of parents serve whole or 2% milk to their school-aged children at home and view drinking milk as an important component of children’s daily nutritional intake.
“Parents across the country, regardless of income or location or political leanings, want public schools to offer whole and 2 percent milk because they know milk is critical to the health and well-being of their children, and they know their children prefer these options,” said Michael Dykes, DVM, IDFA president and CEO.
This information was released as the U.S. Senate considers the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 (H.R.1147, S.1957). The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a wide margin in December.
This bipartisan legislation would allow schools to provide children with a variety of milk options, including whole and 2% milk, which were removed from the school milk program 12 years ago.
Hot Chocolate Milk program introduced in schools
After partnering with Chartwells K12 on a dairy-based smoothie program last year, the National Dairy Council (NDC) is working with them to launch a Hot Chocolate Milk program in 58 schools in the U.S.
Schools participating in the pilot program received a hot chocolate milk kit provided by NDC through Hubert, a food service equipment manufacturer. The kit includes a transport cart with branded panels, an insulated beverage dispenser, a digital thermometer and more.
The chocolate milk will be served hot during breakfast and lunch and will be accompanied by toppings, such as cinnamon and peppermint.
Lisa Hatch, vice president of business development for NDC’s school channel, said some state and regional checkoff teams already have successful hot chocolate milk strategies in place. Those programs on average experienced 14% increases of milk sales and an 11% jump in breakfast participation.
Katie Bambacht, vice president of nutrition affairs for NDC, said, “Schools are only reaching half of the kids at breakfast that they’re reaching at lunch, so there is a big gap in participation, and these programs have been shown to drive participation. Anything we can do to provide simple options such as heating up chocolate milk may help increase participation and milk consumption.”
Rep. Harder seeks USDA response to milk carton shortage
In an effort to prevent the milk carton shortage that has affected various schools across the country from harming California’s dairy industry, Rep. Josh Harder (D-California) called on the USDA to find a solution.
“We can’t let a packaging supply issue cause disruptions for our local dairy industry or prevent students from getting the milk and nutrients they need,” said Harder. “San Joaquin County dairy farmers brought in more than 626 million dollars in 2022. Milk is a huge part of our local economy and it gives kids important nutrients so they can be healthy and ready to focus in the classroom.”
In a letter to USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Harder requested a detailed response describing the actions the USDA is taking to address the issue of half-pint milk carton supply shortfalls.