Share & Connect
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Nutritional Standards for School Meals help ensure the nation’s school children have access to lunches and breakfasts that meet federal dietary guidance for good nutrition.
The standards will encourage students to meet federal recommendations for dairy consumption by requiring that either fat-free flavored milk or low-fat or fat-free white milk be offered with each school meal. As the number one food source of three of the four nutrients[i] the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified as lacking in children’s diets (vitamin D, calcium and potassium), milk plays an important role in delivering critical nutrients.
“On average, by the time they are 4 years old, children fall below the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended dairy intake. By requiring that schools offer low-fat or fat-free milk with every meal, these standards can help children come closer to meeting their nutrient needs,” said Jean H. Ragalie, R.D., President of National Dairy Council.
“Building nutrient-rich school meals is an important step toward helping students develop healthy eating patterns at an early age, and we commend the USDA for making important updates to school nutrition standards at a time when providing children access to proper nutrition has never been more important.”
While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing intake of low fat and fat free milk, especially among children, the new school meal standards include a provision that all flavored milk offered in school be fat-free. Working together, dairy farmers, milk processors and schools have proactively reformulated milk and milk products to meet children’s taste and nutrient needs.
Since 2006, added sugars in chocolate milk offered in schools have been reduced by an estimated 38 percent, though flavored milk contributes just 3 percent of the added sugars and 2 percent of calories to children’s diets on average. This school year, an estimated 95 percent of flavored milk served in schools is 150 calories or less – with an average of 134 – just 31 calories more than white milk.
The updated nutrition standards reflect a school meal environment that goes beyond lunch. More students are taking advantage of school breakfast programs, and eating breakfast can enhance schoolchildren’s diets by contributing essential nutrients. Additionally, some studies show its intake may provide additional benefits toward academic achievement.
Nutrient-rich foods, such as low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt are important options for school menus to help students fuel their day in a nutritious way. Providing children access to proper nutrition and nutrition education in schools has been a priority for National Dairy Council for nearly a century.
In response to the growing obesity epidemic and the majority of American students not meeting physical activity recommendations, National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in cooperation with the USDA, launched a unique in-school nutrition and physical activity program called Fuel Up to Play 60.
The program encourages consumption of low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and achieving at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. With a massive reach of more than 70,000 schools, Fuel Up to Play 60 is helping empower students to play a leadership role in shaping the nutrition and physical activity opportunities in school for themselves and their peers.