School Milk Gets a Makeover

By , SparkPeople Blogger
According to a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics, children are in need of a milk makeover. Although seventy-seven percent of children and adolescents (ages of 2 and 19) are drinking some milk on a daily basis, nearly one-third of them (32 %) report drinking whole milk. Adolescents reported drinking low-fat milk (either one percent or skim) more often, children between the ages of six and eleven tended to select two-percent milk and those between the ages,  of two and five tended to drink whole milk most often. There were race and family income differences in milk selection identified too. Whole milk choices were more prevalent in black and Hispanic homes as well as in those homes with a low poverty income ratio.

With concerns about childhood obesity and after last year's passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, some school districts began removing flavored milks from their cafeterias. Unfortunately, research found that when flavored milk was removed from elementary schools there was a 35 percent drop in milk consumption. Without drinking milk as part of a healthy lunch, it is very difficult for students to meet their daily needs for calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. This is concerning since these nutrients, important for growth and development, were identified to already be limited in children's diets according to the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As part of the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, changes in nutrition requirements for fluid milk served at school were necessary by the start of this school year. Here's what's new in school cafeteria milk.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend children over the age of two receive fat-free or low fat (1%) fluid milk and milk products. Children between the ages of four and eight need the equivalent of 2½ cups of milk. Older children and adolescents between the ages of nine and eighteen need the equivalent of 3 cups of milk each day. Schools are authorized to offer at least two choices of the following options to help students meet these daily recommendations. Schools can offer:
  • Fat free milk
  • Low fat (1%) milk
  • Fat free or low fat lactose reduced milk
  • Fat free or low fat buttermilk
  • Fat free or low fat acidified milk
Any of these options must be pasteurized fluid milk that meets state and local standards and either plain or flavored milk may be offered as long as they meet the variety requirements described above.

The State of School Nutrition 2011 reveals that 98 percent of the school cafeterias nationwide are now offering fat free or low fat (1 percent) milk and 95 percent are offering low-fat flavored milk. This is great since milk provides nine essential nutrients including four (calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A) that have been identified in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as nutrients of concern for inadequacy. Milk and other dairy options also provide a great source of high quality protein. A variety of health and nutrition organizations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Dietetic Association has shown their support for the inclusion of low fat flavored milks in schools. The milk industry has reformulated their chocolate and strawberry flavored milks to comply with the new school standards. This is a great example that when everyone works together -- children and families win.

What do you think of the new milk changes for schools? Is your family meeting their low fat milk requirements?