Voters in New York City and across the country widely support offering low-fat flavored milk in public school meals, according to a new Morning Consult national tracking poll commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).
When asked about including low-fat flavored milk in school meals, parents with kids in public schools in New York City and nationally were very supportive. In New York, 90% of voters with kids in public school support including low-fat flavored milk in public school meals, IDFA said. Nationally, 85% of parents feel the same — an overwhelming demonstration of support for maintaining nutritious milk options for kids in school. (To read the full survey, visit www.idfa.org/schoolmilksurvey.)
School meal participation in cities across the country has fallen since the start of the pandemic, according to preliminary data from USDA, which oversees the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs. Meal participation in New York City schools fell by 300,000 students in 2020 and remains 75,000-80,000 students short of 2019 figures, according to reports from school meal professionals.
As school districts look for opportunities to increase meal participation in schools across the country, IDFA said it is underscoring that when schools offer low-fat flavored milk options, school meal participation increases and children consume more of their meals and discard less food, getting more of the nutrients they need. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the School Nutrition Association and the Institute of Medicine have all published statements that support the nutritive contributions of fat free flavored milk in school meals.
Weakened participation in school meals is a silent but growing crisis for our kids, said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA.
“For children, school meals are by far the healthiest meal of the day,” he said. “Offering more milk options in school plays an important role in the diet and nutrition of children because milk contains 13 essential nutrients that children need for growth, development, healthy immune function and overall wellness.
“The low-fat flavored milk offered in schools today contains 50% less added sugar and 40 fewer calories than it did a decade ago, with all the same nutrition benefits our kids need,” Dykes continued. “Rather than trying to limit school milk options for kids, policymakers should follow the lead of parents, physicians, and school meals professionals who want to do what’s best for child nutrition.”
The national poll was conducted on Feb,. 16, 2022, among a sample of 750 parents. The New York City oversample was conducted between Feb, 16-22, 2022, among a sample of 747 voters. Interviews were conducted online, and both surveys have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, IDFA said.