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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: February 21, 2023 11:35 AM
From: Senator Michele Brooks and Sen. Elder A. Vogel, Jr., Sen. David G. Argall
To: All Senate members
Subject: Resolution Urging the USDA to Allow 2% and Whole Milk in Schools
We soon plan to introduce a resolution urging the USDA to include 2% and whole milk in the Nutrition Standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.  Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and put restrictive regulations on the consumption of whole milk in schools.  In the first two years this legislation was enacted, 1.2 million fewer students drank milk with their lunch, yet still had access to sugary drinks that offer no nutritional value.  This not only has negative health and nutrition impacts on children, but major economic impacts, especially in Pennsylvania.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently proposing updates to school meal standards to support healthier meals for kids.  In addition to addressing nutrition standards, this rule proposes measures to strengthen the Buy American provision in the school meal programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects to issue a final rule in time for schools to plan for school year 2024-25.

The existing standard regarding milk allows flavored and unflavored for all grades K-12 (only fat-free and low-fat milks are allowed), and requires unflavored milk to be offered at each school meal service. The proposed standard currently being offered consists of two options, both of which would include the new added sugars limit for flavored milk and maintain the requirement that unflavored milk is offered at each meal service:  Option 1)  Allow only unflavored milk for grades K-8 and allow flavored and unflavored for grades 9-12, OR allow only unflavored milk for grades K-5 and allow flavored and unflavored for grades 6-12 (either proposal would be effective SY 2025-26), or Option 2) Continue to allow flavored and unflavored milks for all grades (K-12).

Now is our time as a state legislature to encourage an even healthier option to be considered by passing a Resolution urging the USDA to allow 2% and whole milk, both flavored and unflavored, to be offered in schools (K-12).  With a change in standards such as this, schools will have the option of making 2% and whole milk available to students without jeopardizing their federal funding.  Additionally, according to testimony offered by Jayne Sebright, Director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, during a Senate Majority Policy Committee public hearing in June of 2021, about 75% of the milk sold in schools is in the form of flavored milk, and only 25% is unflavored.  The health benefits of 2% and whole milk, whether flavored or unflavored, well exceed the benefits fat-free and low-fat milks.  We should be encouraging students to consume 2% and whole milk rather than beverages that provide little-to-no nutritional value.
Also, according to testimony offered by Rob Barley, past Chairman of the PA Milk Marketing Board, during the same Senate Majority Policy Committee public hearing, he referenced a January 2020 New York Times article stating that “Kids (between ages 1 and 18) who drink whole milk are 39% less likely to become overweight than those who drink lower-fat or skim milk.  Also according to Mr. Barley’s testimony, whole milk only contains no more than 3.5% fat, and one-third of milk’s fatty acids are Omega-3, which have been linked to many health benefits, including improved heart and brain health, and a lower risk of cancer.  This fat is necessary in the daily diet and energy to support cell growth.  Other health benefits of milk include improved bone health, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.  Jayne Sebright also added that that milk is the best food source for calcium, potassium and vitamin D, which many are most lacking in their diets. 

According to the Team Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Economic Impact of Agriculture in Pennsylvania 2021 Update, agriculture supports one out of every 10 jobs in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania’s dairy industry represents a total of $8.3 billion dollars in direct output with 6,100 dairy farms, which is second in the nation, and Pennsylvania ranks 6th nationally in dairy based on sales.
Krista Byler, the Food Service Director/District Chef of the Union City Area School District, offered testimony sharing that during the 2019-2020 school year, her school district ran a milk choice trial at the middle and high schools to gather data for the Pennsylvania Grassroots Dairy Committee, and to help determine whether the restrictive policies regarding milk in school are responsible for the loss of a generation of milk drinkers.  The results of this trial were astounding:
  • 50% increase in milk consumption
  • 95% reduction in milk waste
  • 63.6% of the students who responded to the survey chose milk more often since they had the option to choose which milk fit their needs
  • 84.7% of the students who responded to the survey drink whole milk at home (which is why they do not choose milk at school)
  • The survey results show that something as simple as offering two additional milk fat options within school meals can significantly change the amount of milk chosen, consumed and NOT discarded.
The evidence is overwhelming that both 2% and whole milk should be offered to our students in schools.  This is a common-sense update that should be made to the USDA school meal standards, and we encourage your support by cosponsoring this Resolution.  If you have any questions, please contact Fallon Binner at fbinner@pasen.gov, Nate Clark at nclark@pasen.gov, and/or Cindy Urban at curban@pasen.gov.  Thank you.

Introduced as SR48