USDA said it would publish a proposed rule “maintaining flexibility for schools to serve tasty meals their kids will be eager to eat.” The proposed changes respond directly to the needs of nutrition professionals who are the experts on the ground, hearing from children every day, the agency said.

USDA said the proposed rule would maintain flexibility in USDA child nutrition program meal requirements related to milk, grains and sodium by:

  • Allowing flavored low-fat milk in Child Nutrition Programs. 
  • Allowing half of the weekly grains offered through the school meal programs to be whole grain-rich.
  • Providing schools more time for gradual sodium reduction.

Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), released the following statement on Nov. 24 in support of USDA’s proposed rule in relation to milk:

“According to the federal government, American children and adolescents over 4 years old are not consuming enough dairy to meet federal dietary recommendations. Yet, over the past several years, the varieties of milk that can be offered to kids in school have been reduced. First, whole milk disappeared; then 2%; and then finally 1% flavored milk, which kids prefer compared to non-fat flavored milk.

“As a result, we’re losing a generation of milk drinkers and pushing kids toward less healthy options, including soft drinks, juices and/or caffeinated beverages. None of these replacements compare to the nutritional advantages of milk. That’s why IDFA is pleased to see USDA propose changes to bring low-fat flavored milk back to school nutrition programs.

“It has been proven time and again in schools across the country that when schools offer flavored milks, kids not only drink more milk — they are more likely to participate in the school meal programs and waste less food, acquiring more vitamins and nutrients. In fact, about 73% of the calcium available in the food supply is provided by milk and milk products. Milk is the top source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin D in the diet of children 2-18 years. It’s clear that low-fat flavored milk is highly nutritious, offering vitamins and minerals all kids need and most kids lack.”