WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Students in schools around the country that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program only have access to fat-free and low fat-milk.

However, a bill in Washington could bring whole, and two percent milk back to the cafeteria. 

In 2010, Congress passed “The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act,” which eliminated whole and two percent milk from many schools. 

“The bill did not adhere to science-based nutritional facts regarding milk,” said Bailey Fisher, Federal Affairs Specialist for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB). 

Fisher says the legislation not only hurt dairy farmers, but also students. For more than a decade, she says, students have been missing out on the nutritional benefits from whole and reduced-fat milk. 

“Strong bone density, a healthier immune system, reducing cardiovascular risk, lowering blood pressure, reducing type two diabetes,” said Fisher. 

Whole milk, which has a fat content of just over three percent, was eliminated as a tool to fight childhood obesity. But as obesity rates rise, Fisher says whole milk was never the problem. 

“It reduces hunger cravings. So if a child or student were to drink whole milk and get filled up on that, rather than going and grabbing the cookie or the bag of chips, obviously that is the better and more nutritious option,” said Fisher. 

“The rate of obesity and being overweight increased dramatically after access to whole milk and flavor was taken out of the schools,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R- PA) as he spoke in favor of H.R. 1147 on the floor of the U.S. House earlier this month. "Out of touch federal regulations have imposed dietary restrictions on the types of milk students have access to in school meals.” 

Thompson is the sponsor of H.R. 1147, known as the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act. The House passed Thompson’s bill on Dec. 13 with 329 members voting in favor. 

“It’s our kids that have been cheated out of the nutrition that they need,” said Thompson. “It's just a terrible taste experience when you're drinking low-fat or nonfat milk,” he added.  

Thompson’s bill permits schools to offer students whole and reduced-fat, flavored and unflavored milk in addition to low-fat, and fat-free. Getting the bill through Congress has been a major goal for more than ten years for Fisher and PFB members. 

“Our members were saying like, ‘We've waited a decade for this vote. We want to get this across the finish line’ because they've seen the impact,” said Fisher. 

Organizations like Animal Wellness Action criticized the denial of an amendment to the bill which would have offered kids a plant-based milk option upon request. The organization cited concerns about lactose intolerant students, animal welfare and harm to the soy industry. 

“It is startling that the House, in taking up a so-called ‘milk choice’ bill, won’t allow a debate on an amendment permitting a nutritionally acceptable, plant-based milk option for kids even though half of all participants in the National School Lunch program are lactose intolerant,” said Wayne Pacelle, President of Animal Wellness Action in a Dec. 13 press release. “Countless kids get sick from consuming cow’s milk, and millions of others throw it away. Neither outcome is good for them or for our country, and the ADD SOY Act is a simple, common-sense remedy.” 

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.