Dairy Innovation Helps Close the Nutrient Gap in Schools

  • February 28, 2020

When schools serve breakfast and lunch, they help make it easier for students to meet their nutritional needs. And dairy plays a role: Low-fat and fat-free milk is a fundamental part of federal school meal programs because of its nutrient package—providing the No. 1 food source of 13 essential nutrients in the diets of America’s children and adolescents.

Milk is under-consumed by most age groups, so having milk at school meals helps bring students closer to nutrient recommendations for calcium, potassium, vitamin D and other key nutrients provided by milk. A 2017 study showed 77% of daily milk consumption for children ages 5 to 18 came from national school meals programs.

National Dairy Council and the School Nutrition Foundation recently partnered to share innovative strategies school nutrition professionals use across the county to increase dairy consumption and help students achieve their three servings of dairy every day. Here are just a few new approaches that made a difference:

  • In partnership with Dairy West, 40 schools across Utah and Idaho held virtual dairy farm tours in 134 classrooms that connected students with a local dairy farmer to learn where their food comes from, building their understanding of local food systems.
  • Bluestone Elementary in Virginia introduced milk dispensers and saw a 91% reduction in packaging waste and a 52% increase in milk consumption.
  • Aldine Independent School District in Texas reintroduced 1% flavored milk to its menu and saw a 9% increase in milk purchases over the prior school year.
  • Nassau County School District in Florida added a personalized, made-to-order iced coffee kiosk to a high school breakfast program. Not only did milk consumption go up, but school breakfast participation increased 9% over the previous year.
  • Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut added hot chocolate milk to their high school menu and provided an additional 11,000-plus servings of milk over the next three and a half months. Not only did milk consumption increase, but school breakfast participation went up by 6%.

Simple strategies at school breakfast and lunch can have a big impact in helping students meet their nutritional needs.

If you have any questions about dairy innovation in your area, please reach out to your local dairy council.