Keeping Milk in School

September 29, 2009 07:00 PM

By Jim Dickrell

By law, USDA's dietary guidelines must be reviewed every five years, and it was thought the current review would be completed yet this year. At stake are how the nation eats, and how many dairy products are offered in public schools.

However, because of the Congressional battle over health care reform, reauthorization will likely be pushed well into 2010, says Greg Miller, vice president of research, regulatory and scientific affairs with Dairy Management, Inc. He and Kimberly Clauss, a Hilmar, Calif., dairy producer and current chair of the National Dairy Research and Promotion Board, sat down with Dairy Today at World Dairy Expo to discuss the implications of that reauthorization.

The new guidelines are critical to dairy's future because they dictate what dairy products are allowed in schools and government feeding programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

"Schools have become the battleground,” says Miller. "Some schools are taking flavored milks off their menus because of added sugar. But research shows kids will drink more milk if it's flavored, and get closer to their needed three servings per day.”

Currently, 90% of girls and 70% of boys don't get three servings of dairy a day, says Clauss.  While kids are consuming more than they were 10 years ago, the average intake is still only about 1.7 servings, she says.

"Pizza in school lunch programs will also be attacked because it contains sodium in almost all of its ingredients, placing it over the top for sodium consumption,” says Miller.

But DMI, through its Dairy Innovation Centers working with cheese makers, has developed a low-fat, low-sodium cheese that will deliver less than 100 calories per slice. Though not yet commercialized, it should be available soon and would likely allow pizza to remain on school menus.

Through dairy nutrition research funded by dairy farmer checkoff dollars, Miller also believes 3-A-Day dairy servings will survive the new round of dietary guidelines. That research shows that milk contains not only calcium but eight essential nutrients.

For more information on the opportunities for dairy products, click here.

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