We’re answering commonly asked questions about serving dairy foods at school and our resources to support youth wellness.
Dairy in School Meals
Federal regulations, through the Healthy Hungry-Free Kid Act, require school meal programs to meet specific nutrition standards. The standards are developed using the latest nutrition science as advised by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Milk is offered as a part of the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs because dairy provides valuable nutrition in a small and inexpensive package. Schools can choose to offer fat free and low fat (1%) milk, either in white or flavored milk, as well as yogurt and cheese.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandates that the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs allow schools to only serve low fat and fat free white and flavored milk, as advised by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines recommend three daily servings of low fat and/or fat free dairy foods.
To receive lactose-free milk at school, your child simply needs to ask for it. For students with a medical or other special dietary need, milk substitute beverages can be made available at school upon written request by a medical professional, parent or legal guardian. Please check with your state Department of Education to see if they have additional requirements.
Real cow’s milk offers a unique package of nine essential nutrients in one 8 ounce serving, while non-dairy alternatives often do not provide the same nutrient profile and often contain added ingredients like salt, syrups, thickeners and sugars. Due to these differences, only fortified soy beverages that meet the current USDA nutrition standards required for the milk component of school meals are allowable.
Many schools have been successful in integrating smoothies into their reimbursable meal menus. Depending on the recipes used, schools can credit smoothies as milk, yogurt and fruit. Consult USDA’s smoothie guidance to learn how to properly credit smoothies.
Coffee bars are becoming increasingly popular in high schools and must comply with USDA Smart Snack guidelines. They serve popular coffee-like beverages, such as mochas, lattes and cappuccinos, which are all made with milk. These beverages often contain milk, sugar-free flavoring and less caffeine than a half cup of coffee.
School food service directors can control the sugar, caffeine, calories and portion size for each drink, and many of these beverages contains milk, which is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in student’s diets.
The small amount of added sugars in flavored milk is an acceptable trade-off for the nutrients provided. Keeping nutrient-rich, flavored milk on the school menu helps ensure children get key vitamins and minerals that they need for strong bones and healthy bodies.
Yes. Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, including calcium and vitamin D — nutrients of concern that many kids fail to get enough of, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. While there may be a small amount of added sugar in flavored milk, a child having fat free or low fat flavored milk is a much better choice than a child having no milk at all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics points out, that when sugar is used along with nutrient-rich foods and beverages, it can be a powerful tool to increase the overall quality of a child’s diet. Flavored milk contains the same thirteen essential nutrients as white milk, including calcium and vitamin D — nutrients of concern that many kids fail to get enough of.
Like white milk, flavored milk is a good or excellent source of thirteen essential nutrients, with a difference of approximately 12g of added sugar (approximately 7.5g of added sugar in flavored milk served in schools).
The Ohio High School Athletic Association and West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission recognize that being active and enjoying great-tasting healthy foods, like nutrient-rich chocolate milk, can help students feel their best and be at the top of their game. That’s why chocolate milk has been designated as the Official Beverage for Ohio and West Virginia student athletes.
Farm to School
Farm to School is a national initiative through which schools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods on their menus to teach students about where their food comes from. Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
Milk is more local than you may think. Ohio and West Virginia dairy farmers play an important role in producing nutritious milk year-round that arrives at schools in as little as 72 hours after leaving the farm.
Fuel Up is an an initiative created by America’s Dairy Farmers to help meet the needs of schools across the country when it comes to fueling healthy bodies and healthy minds. The program offers a variety of opportunities for adults, students and schools, from in-school wellness initiatives to funding.
Our dairy-farmer funded grants are announced to school service directors as they are made available. Previous grant programs have helped schools add new dairy-friendly items to their menus and purchase equipment, such as mobile serving carts, smoothie stations and breakfast bars, to increase dairy consumption in schools.
Schools who participate in Fuel Up to Play 60 can apply for up to $4,000 per year to jump-start healthy school changes. Schools must select one Healthy Eating and one Physical Activity Play to implement. For more information, visit FuelUptoPlay60.com.
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