U.S. House passes Whole Milk for Healthy Kids bill

Photo: Representatives Tom Tiffany (R-WI, seated) and Cory Mills (R-FL, standing) offer friendly amendments to Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act.

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would reverse a school nutrition program rule and allow whole milk back in school.  Ag Committee Chair Glenn GT Thompson’s Whole Milk for Healthy Kids bill didn’t have the votes to pass Tuesday but passed overwhelmingly Wednesday on a 330-99 margin.

Paul Bleiberg from the National Milk Producers Federation tells Brownfield the members of Congress paid attention to recent scientific studies. “Dairy is under consumed, especially among school aged children and really should be consumed at higher rates, and given that problem, and that understanding that there was a recognition on both sides of the isle, that this bill was the right thing to do to fix that.”

During floor debate, Dr. John Joyce, who represents Pennsylvania, said a published fifteen-year study shows whole milk is good for people of all ages. “Individuals who consume more than two dairy products each day have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. There are lower morbidity associated with those who have whole milk and whole milk products in their diet.”

Dr. Joyce says banning healthy milk products from schools has led students to turn away from milk and dairy products and turn to highly caffeinated and sugary drinks, and those drinks have very little nutritional value.

AUDIO: Paul Bleiberg with National Milk Producers Federation discusses the passage of HR1147, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

The House bill passed with amendments that would allow organic milk, exclude Chinese-made dairy products from schools, and prohibit USDA from making rules that would remove flavored milks from school meal programs.

The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate, where Bleiberg says a companion bill by Republican Roger Marshall from Kansas and Democrat Peter Welch from Vermont must pass through the Senate Agriculture Committee first.

The House vote is getting positive reactions from farming organizations.

American Farm Bureau Federation issued a statement saying, ““AFBF applauds the House for passing the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 to ensure schools can offer additional nutritious milk options to students. In a letter to Congress, AFBF shared that milk is an important building block for America’s children, but approximately 9 out of 10 children aren’t consuming enough dairy to meet their nutrition needs. Unfortunately, whole and 2% milk aren’t allowed in school lunch programs, limiting access to protein, calcium and vitamins at important times in children’s development. We encourage the Senate to quickly follow the House’s lead to promote healthy school meal options for America’s students.”

Walt Moore with the American Dairy Coalition says, ““We are pleased to see the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act gain passage in the House of Representatives. As farmers, we produce a wholesome product that our nation’s children should be able to choose. We thank Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson for his diligence toward the goal of students having the freedom to choose whole milk at school and making it possible for schools to offer this nutritional choice without the fear of losing federal meal and education dollars. Scientific evidence supports fuller fat milk and dairy as an excellent source of vital nutrients and other health benefits. While the natural milkfat aids absorption of key vitamins, it also brings flavor to the table so students can enjoy and benefit from all that milk has to offer them.” 

International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes says, ““IDFA applauds the strong bipartisan passage of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would allow schools to once again provide children with a wide variety of milk options that they will drink and that meet their individual needs—whether that be whole and 2%, low-fat milks, or lactose-free milks. Whole milk and reduced-fat milks alike provide children with 13 essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function, and overall wellness. A wide majority of parents and medical and nutrition professionals know that offering these options increases school meal participation, reduces food waste, and provides nutritionally valuable school meals for children and adolescents. IDFA is grateful to Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, Rep. Kim Schrier, and the many other lawmakers who for years have championed this effort to reinstate the full suite nutritious milk options in school meals. We strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation.”

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative General Manager Jeff Lyon says, “

“FarmFirst applauds today’s approval of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1147), a bipartisan bill which expands healthy milk options for kids in schools.  FarmFirst has been a long-time advocate for expanded dairy options in schools.  This bill will reverse the current regulations that only allow low-fat and fat-free milk options to be offered.  The reintroduction of whole milk in school cafeterias will not only promote children’s health by offering a well-rounded selection of milk options in schools, but also the potential for increased demand for milk, thereby supporting dairy farmers. FarmFirst will continue to advocate for legislation that ensures healthy nutrition as well as for the well being of the dairy industry.”

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative President Brody Stapel says, “Milk is an essential part of a balanced diet, especially for our growing children,” Edge President Brody Stapel said. “Milk’s nutritional benefits for school-age children have been proven time and again, and offering expanded options encourages consumption of nutrient-dense milk. Thank you to Reps. GT Thompson and Kim Schrier for their unwavering support and leadership to ensure that fuller-fat dairy products are recognized as healthy options, especially for school nutrition programs. We urge the Senate to take up their companion bill ASAP.”

Nina Teicholz, Founder of The Nutrition Coalition says, “I’m delighted to see this change, which is backed by the most rigorous science showing that regular dairy is the healthiest for growing children. This law is a rare instance in nutrition where good science has triumphed over special interests.”

The bill’s author, Glenn GT Thompson says, “I am pleased to see my bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act pass out of the United States House of Representatives, and I ultimately look forward to restoring access to these nutritious beverages in schools across the country.”

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