Supporting Variety

Senate Agriculture Committee votes in favor of bolstering school milk choices.
In a move strongly supported by the nation’s dairy producers and processors, the Senate Agriculture Committee last month approved the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, a bill that contains two major provisions to increase milk’s availability to American schoolchildren.
The Senate bill’s school milk provisions are identical to the language found in the House of Representatives’ Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act, backed by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The Senate Agriculture Committee adopted the House bill’s language after receiving a May 13 letter from a bipartisan group of senators, led by committee members Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“We applaud the leadership of Senators Crapo and Leahy in enhancing the role of milk in the school lunch program,” says Connie Tipton, IDFA president and chief executive officer.
Jerry Kozak president and chief executive officer of NMPF, also praised panel chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and the entire Senate Agriculture Committee for “clearly recognizing the importance of milk in the health of our nation’s children.”
Specifically, the first provision would allow schools to have more flexibility on what to serve on the school lunch line. While the school lunch program currently restricts schools to offering only milk varieties that most students chose in the previous school year, this legislation would allow schools to expand choices based on what they believe are the best offerings for the student body, including flavored milk, lactose-free milk and milk of varying fat levels. In fact, the bill would require at least two different milk options to be offered. In particular, IDFA and NMPF welcome the addition of lactose-free milk to the school lunch line, believing it will expand milk’s appeal to those with special dietary needs.
The second provision would give schools the authority to offer milk anytime and anywhere on school premises or at school events. This would prevent restrictions on milk sales that are sometimes inserted in vending contracts that soft-drink companies have with schools. NMPF and IDFA are calling for a full Senate vote as soon as possible, since authorization for the current child nutrition programs expires June 30.