The U.S. House has passed a bill that would give students the choice to select whole milk with their school lunch after it was banned thanks in part to a former first lady.
The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act gained significant bipartisan traction, passing the House 330-99.
“Milk is an essential building block for a well-rounded and balanced diet, offering 13 essential nutrients and numerous health benefits,” Rep. Thompson said in a Wednesday press release. “However, out-of-touch and outdated federal regulations have imposed restrictions on the types of milk students have access to in school meals.”
Whole milk was removed from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in 2012, when then-First Lady Michelle Obama championed regulations to public school lunches.
Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which sought to “solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation,” coincided with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The measure placed new restrictions on the types and amounts of food that could be served in the National School Lunch Program.
Currently, the only milk options available through the NSLP are non-fat or low-fat. Rep. Thompson’s legislation would change that, adding whole and reduced fat milk options to the menu.
Proponents of the bill highlight that whole milk provides essential nutrients while satiating kids’ appetites more efficiently than non-fat options. This feedback is especially notable given how many students who receive free or reduced-price meals through the NSLP also reportedly face food insecurity at home.
“School meals provide nutritional equity and food security,” remarked Chris Hoffman, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau president, regarding the bill. “Low-income families who already are struggling to put dinner on the table, cannot afford to purchase the most expensive type of milk. However, medical research and pediatricians have attested that our children need the 21 essential minerals and 13 vitamins necessary for healthy development.”
Despite its bipartisan support in the House, the legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate, and if it passes there, with President Joe Biden, whose tenure as Vice President during the Obama administration links him to the current state of school lunches.
“I am pleased to see my bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act pass out of the United States House of Representatives, and I ultimately look forward to restoring access to these nutritious beverages in schools across the country,” Rep. Thompson summarized.
The NSLP served nearly 30 million children during the 2021-2022 school year, with 95% of students receiving their meal for free due to a COVID-19 pandemic waiver. These figures suggest that roughly 60% of all public-school students are impacted by the NSLP.