WASHINGTON, D.C. - You’ll find whole milk on store shelves and it may even in your own refrigerator.

But for much of the last decade, there is one place the staple for many kids hasn’t been found.

“With the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, we want to restore whole milk back into our schools,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.).

Thompson, whose 15th District covers Central and Western Pennsylvania and the heart of the commonwealth’s dairy industry, is leading the effort to reverse Obama-era regulations that he says have hurt the dairy farmers, and children’s health. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Actstates that flavored milk must be fat-free in the national School Lunch Program, among other changes. That led to less milk consumption in schools, Thompson said.

The law also took effect during what has become a years-long economic decline in the dairy industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last month that there is a 1.4 billion-pound cheese surplus nationwide.

Thompson’s plan would put whole milk, both flavored and unflavored, back on your child’s lunch tray.

“(Whole milk is) where the nutrition is, that’s what our kids need,” he said. “And quite frankly that’s where the taste is, too.”

However, not everyone sees these changes as a good thing. Analysts at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. see the rollbacks potentially having a negative impact on children’s nutrition.

“About 15 percent of all the calories kids eat in a single day come from added sugar,” said Sarah Reinhardt, a lead analyst of food systems and health at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Flavored milk, on average, contributes 12 grams of added sugar to a child’s lunch every day, Reinhardt said, and could contribute to greater health risks, such as childhood obesity.

“We see this proposed rule as part of a larger pattern in the Trump administration of sidelining science in favor of industry influence,” she said.

That’s a sentiment shared by House Agriculture Committee Chairman, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who is co-sponsoring Thompson’s bill. In a statement, the Minnesota Congressman said the bill will provide a “valuable market for dairy farmers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and nationwide at a time when they’re continuing to face extremely difficult market conditions”

In 2017, the U.S.D.A. allowed schools to receive waivers for low-fat (1%) flavored milk, rather than only fat-free. That’s an encouraging first step, Thompson said, to giving students more choice and a healthier lunch.

 

Other supporters of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act

Agriculture Committee Republican Leader Mike Conaway (R-TX), Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. John Joyce (R-PA), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).