The Wolf Administration has urged schools to take advantage of a federal regulation change that expands access to more milk choices for students. During an event in Harrisburg on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, the departments of Agriculture, Health, and Education explained how schools may now offer more milk options — flavored milk — during breakfast and lunch services without needing to obtain a waiver.
In May 2017, revised federal guidance allowed schools to request a waiver to serve one percent flavored milk in schools. To receive a waiver, school food service directors needed to prove waste or complaints by students or parents. That year, 244 Pennsylvania school districts and 64 individual schools applied for and received waivers.
Under new guidance for the 2018-2019 school year, low-fat flavored milk is now allowed without a waiver through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule for Child Nutrition Programs. Flavored milk, such as chocolate or strawberry, contains the same nine essential nutrients—including calcium, vitamin D and potassium—as white, unflavored milk.
Recent studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) of vitamin D intake among children and adolescents have shown that an insufficient amount of the vitamin within this age group is associated with cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome. On its website, the American Dairy Association North East cites recent studies about milk offerings in schools; one study showed that when flavored milk was not offered on certain or all days of the week, there was a dramatic drop in milk consumption – about 37 percent.
This month, the Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health sent a joint letter to encourage schools to take advantage of the flexibility in offering flavored milk to their students. The departments also asked schools to consider choosing Pennsylvania dairy producers and vendors when selecting the dairy products they offer students.
In June 2018, the American Dairy Association and the PA Dairymen’s Association hosted events to encourage Pennsylvanians to drink locally sourced milk. The state’s dairy farmers have seen the price they are able to charge for their product drop, and their surpluses rise. Pennsylvania has lost some 800 dairy farms in the past eight years. While it’s still the second-largest milk-producing state in the country, there is a glut on the market as consumers turn to milk alternatives like soy or almond “milk.”
On August 18, 2018, the Department of Agriculture unveiled its new Dairy Development Plan, which includes a series of intermediate- and longer-term strategies, including making better use of existing funding to support research and development; placing an emphasis on identifying economic development projects; providing incentives for existing producers to upgrade their dairy equipment and facilities and invest in on-farm processing capacity; further streamlining and reforming Pennsylvania’s regulatory processes; and promoting the sale, consumption, and health benefits of Pennsylvania milk.