Miriam Erickson Brown, chief executive officer of the family-owned, Iowa-based Anderson Erickson Dairy Co., testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee and its chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), at a hearing entitled “Beyond Federal School Meal Programs: Reforming Nutrition for Kids in Schools.”
Representing the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation, Erickson Brown stressed the need to keep nutrient-rich dairy foods in schools, and outlined the role that consumption of low-fat and fat-free milk and other milk products plays in the strategy to lowering childhood obesity rates. She urged Congress to set consistent nutrition standards, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for all foods and beverages available in schools.
"I ask the committee to be sure to balance nutrition standards with what kids will eat," said Erickson Brown. "We encourage you to set school-wide nutrition standards that include milk, yogurt and various types of cheese as valuable and important components of a child's healthy diet in schools."
While favoring one set of standards for all foods and beverages available in schools, including those sold through a la carte menus, vending machines and school stores, Erickson Brown cautioned the committee against guidelines that are overly restrictive.
“Nutrition standards applied to individual foods may put nutrient-rich foods such as yogurt cups and cheese sticks, out of the reach of our children,” Erickson Brown testified. “The dairy industry has invested in extensive research and development of new ingredients and products that minimize added sugars and allow for a variety of fat levels.”
A long-time proponent of good childhood nutrition, Erickson Brown also submitted testimony to the Senate committee last fall on ways to improve child nutrition and marketing foods to kids. In addition to serving on IDFA's board of directors, Erickson Brown serves as chair of the Health and Wellness Committee of the new Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
The hearing also included testimony by representatives from Mars Snackfood, U.S., the North Dakota Dietetic Association, the American Beverage Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, the National School Boards Association and the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance.