Fewer students are drinking low-fat and fat-free milk while in school and are missing out on important nutrients, a new paper from the National Dairy Council on students' milk consumption finds.
A Capitol Hill briefing regarding the paper, "Fluid Milk in School Programs," was held this week to keep legislators in the loop on the topic. They are set to reauthorize school nutrition programs this year.
The report identified declining milk consumption in schools as a concern because of the nutritional importance of milk in children's diets. The majority of school-aged children do not meet current government dietary recommended intakes for low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products.
"The decline in milk consumption is worrisome because it is difficult to replace the nutrient package found in milk with other foods, without adding extra calories and cost," Jean Ragalie-Carr, RD, president of the National Dairy Council, told briefing participants.
Ragalie-Carr discussed the role of fluid milk in school meal programs and outlined the opportunity for improved child nutrition through increased milk consumption.
Robert Murray, M.D., professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, emphasized the importance of milk as a component of a healthy diet.
"People must think in terms of the whole food pattern, not just individual nutrients," he said.
Milk is the leading source of nine essential nutrients for children 2-18 years old, the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association, groups helping to host the briefing, said. Milk also includes eight grams of protein in each eight-ounce serving.
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The groups "strongly support" the National Dairy Council's report.
According to the groups, school meals are designed to provide foods recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including low fat and fat free milk.
The committee in charge of reviewing the dietary guidelines earlier this year returned their findings, recommending support for continued consumption of dairy products.
The school milk report provides background information on numerous USDA programs that include milk, as well as identifies the challenges to maintaining and expanding milk consumption to achieve recommended dietary guidelines, the groups said.
Reps. G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., both members of the House Ag Committee, hosted the briefing.
News source: IDFA