WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 The International Dairy Foods Association applauded Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama Administration for highlighting the importance of offering more low fat milk and dairy products in schools. This was prominently featured in his commitment to improve the quality of school meals, one of the top priorities that the Secretary announced today as he outlined the Obama Administration's agenda for Child Nutrition Act reauthorization.
"Kids are eating far too few low fat dairy products," said Vilsack. This is particularly important because the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school meal programs are often the only source of dairy products in many children's diet.
USDA data shows that per capita milk consumption has been falling for decades, and that this decline corresponds to the dramatic increase in per capita consumption of competing beverages among schoolchildren. The USDA also reports that the vast majority of children do not get the recommended amount of calcium. Only 5 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys aged 9 to 13 get the calcium they need.
"We value the exceptional leadership that Secretary Vilsack is providing to improve the health of our nation's children," said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of IDFA. "Milk is an excellent source of nine essential nutrients and vitamins; dairy foods are by far the most significant source of calcium in the U.S. food supply."
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that school age children ages 9 to 18 consume 3 servings a day of low fat or fat-free milk or dairy products including yogurt and cheese. However, most American children fail to meet the recommended dairy servings.
IDFA estimates that less than half of school age children are consuming milk, and the trend towards declining milk consumption continues through high school.
Earlier this week, USDA announced that it is expanding its Healthier US School Challenge. Originally established in 2004 to recognize elementary schools that are promoting good nutrition and physical activity, the Challenge program will now include middle and high schools.
Schools that participate in the Challenge program and meet requirements established by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service are awarded bronze, silver or gold star status for their accomplishments. Encouraging kids to drink more milk, both flavored and plain low fat and nonfat varieties, are key components in the participation requirements.
"Studies have found that children who have a choice of flavored milk, are more likely to meet their calcium needs without consuming more total fat and calories as compared with their peers that don't drink milk," said Tipton, and we are pleased that USDA recommends that schools offer children a wide variety of dairy products.
The program also requires schools to provide physical education and nutrition education and offers strategies for purchasing, preparing and serving meals consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (See "Use Low-fat Milk, Cheese and Yogurt for Healthier School Meals" fact sheet for healthier schools meals.) http://www.teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/DGfactsheet_milk.pdf
For more details, visit the HealthierUS School Challenge Web page. http://www.teamnutrition.usda.gov/HealthierUS/index.html
SOURCE International Dairy Foods Association