The Story of Milk in Schools

  • Article
  • April 13, 2015

Many of us have fond memories of walking through the school lunch line, and getting our favorite meals. We couldn’t wait for Taco Tuesday, Hamburger Day and Pizza Friday! Many of the names (and in some cases the ingredients) have changed – we now have Touchdown Tacos, Fastball Fruit Salad and Mega Cheese Swirls, but no matter what was or is being served, there is always delicious, nutritious milk!

As health and wellness professionals, you know that school meals are designed to help meet nutrient needs and teach children healthy eating habits. What foods are offered in schools has evolved as public health challenges have evolved. First there were lunches, later, breakfasts, suppers and meals in summer programs.

Of course, just like everything else, this didn’t just happen. There’s a story to the nutritional importance of fluid milk in school meal programs. And now the concurrent history of both is available in one succinct report, Fluid Milk in School Meal Programs.

The report examines the history of milk in schools, describes how milk’s unique nutrition package fits with other foods in federal school meal programs and provides nourishment for students in almost 100,000 schools. It explains how drinking low-fat and fat-free milk is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and health and wellness professionals, and it can be difficult to replace milk’s nutrient package with other foods. It also discusses the opportunities and challenges school milk faces today.

This year National Dairy Council is celebrating its 100 year anniversary and since the beginning dairy farmers have been committed to helping improve child health and wellness. As early as 1929, NDC’s nutrition education programs began and NDC participated in the first White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1940. Throughout its history, NDC has had a special focus on improving child health and wellness, most recently through Fuel Up to Play 60, which encourages students to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

The milk served to the nation’s students has changed as well. Schools requested and received milk with lower fat levels, while milk companies reformulated their flavored milk offering to significantly reduce added-sugar content. In the 2014 school year, over 7.6 billion meals were served in schools, to help provide important nutritional benefits to all, including the over 15.8 million children from food insecure households who may be vulnerable to health and cognitive development challenges.

Milk has been part of the school meal program from the start. Although there are still challenges to maintaining and expanding milk consumption in the schools, there are also many opportunities. Read the report for more information and help increase awareness around the importance of school milk.