As Congress considers a recently introduced bill to allow whole milk in schools, area business and educators say the move would encourage students to drink more milk, often a main source of calcium and other nutrients.
The new bill — H.R. 832, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019 — was introduced last week by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5th, and would allow schools to serve students flavored or unflavored varieties of whole milk in the hopes that they would be more likely to drink milk if given more choices.
“Milk is the Number 1 source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of our students, but if they don't drink it these health benefits are lost,” Thompson said in a statement.
Thompson represents part of Butler County, including most of the eastern half.
“Milk consumption has been declining in schools throughout the nation because kids are not consuming the varieties of milk being made available to them. It is my hope that the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act will bring a wider range of milk options to American lunchrooms, so students can choose the kind they love best,” Thompson's statement said.
Craig Marburger, vice president at Marburger Dairy in Evans City, said that previous legislation to cut fat in milk at schools slashed student dairy consumption — for some students, indefinitely.
“When they went from 1-percent chocolate to skim chocolate, it reduced consumption at the schools from 30 to 40 percent,” Marburger said.
“So, kids stop drinking milk, and for the rest of their lives they don't drink milk,” he said.
This affects both the dairy industry, which sells less milk when students stop drinking it, as well as the students who are likely to be missing out on the nutrients that might not be found in other beverages.
These essential nutrients include protein, calcium and others that are vital for children for whom milk is often the main source, whether it's skim, 1-percent or whole milk, explained Jennifer Taylor, hospitality management instructor at Butler County Community College.
“The main nutritional difference is low-fat milk has less fat in it, but is still nutrient dense,” Taylor said.
Whole milk is essentially 3-percent milk, she explained, and the main difference between it and low-fat milk is the calorie and fat content.
Regarding which type of milk a child should drink, Taylor said that will vary from person to person and is often a matter of personal preference.
The important thing is that students are getting the nutrients they need, whether through drinking milk or some other means, she said.
Thompson's bill seeks to reverse legislation from 2010 that mandated all flavored milk be fat free.
This resulted in an “alarming decline in milk consumption in schools,” prompting Thompson to introduce legislation in 2017 that eased these rules.
That same year, the USDA passed a rule permitting schools to get waivers for 1-percent flavored milk, which is the essence of Thompson's bill.
This latest bill builds off that rule, a release from Thompson's office said.