May 9 2024 02:44 PM

USDA includes flavored milks in program updates

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

GREEN BAY, Wis. ─ New school meal standards announced last week by the USDA include major steps to promote the health of America’s children through school meals. The new standards will be gradually updated to include less sugar and more flexibility in menu planning between Fall 2025 and Fall 2027, according to the USDA announcement.

Included in the updates was the continuation of allowing schools to offer flavored and unflavored milk to students. The new guidelines recognize the important role milk plays in providing the essential nutrients students need, such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium. The update did include a new limit on the amount of added sugar allowed in the milk, a requirement school milk processors have committed to meeting the limit on added sugar.

“The USDA’s recognition of the importance of allowing milk, including flavored milk, in the school meals program is a win for all dairy farmers,” said Tim Trotter, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative CEO. “We have fought hard through our legislative efforts to help ensure students have access to the milk they are wanting while at school.”

The original proposed rule for the school meal program update allowed for only unflavored, fat-free and low-fat milk for grades K-8 and allowed flavored and unflavored, fat-free and low-fat milk for grades 9-12.

The approval to allow flavored and unflavored, fat-free and low-fat milk for all grades was the result of collective efforts throughout the dairy community. This change allows for more children to have access to the nutritional benefits of milk in their school meals.

“While we are encouraged by this action, there is still more to do to ensure we are providing full access to all types of nutrient dense dairy products, including whole milk,” Trotter said.

The new updates are scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of the 2025-26 school year. More information can be found here.