January 11th, 2024
By Elise Stefanik
As we celebrate National Milk Day, I am especially grateful to our dairy farmers in Upstate New York and the North Country who work tirelessly to provide our communities with delicious and nutritious milk. I will always fight to increase our children’s and families’ access to milk so that they can receive the essential nutrients that milk provides.
Last month, I was proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act on the House floor. This legislation will allow school cafeterias to serve whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, and fat-free flavored and unflavored milk in cafeterias, giving our kids a variety of milk choices.
School nutrition programs provide students across the country with critical access to healthy meals, including nutritious flavored and unflavored milk. In fact, school meals provide 77 percent of total daily milk consumption and 70 percent of total dairy consumption for low-income children ages 5-18.
According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the vast majority of school-age children do not meet the recommended levels of dairy consumption and therefore are not receiving the essential nutrients that milk provides for growth and development. The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act will secure a variety of milk choices for our school children, including whole milk, ensuring that our children have more options to receive the crucial nutrients milk provides. Increasing milk access for our growing children is vital, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Senate to get this legislation signed into law.
When New York City Mayor Eric Adams tried to ban chocolate milk in schools, I led the successful bipartisan effort to fight back against this draconian policy.
Last year, I introduced the Protecting School Milk Choices Act, legislation that would ensure schools participating in the National School Lunch Program offer students at least one flavored milk option. Any effort by New York City Mayor Adams to ban chocolate milk and replace it with vegan juice is an absolute non-starter and will be met by my opposition on behalf of New York’s hardworking dairy farmers and families.
Furthermore, I am proud to lead the charge in protecting flavored milk in schools nationwide in response to USDA’s recently proposed rule to potentially ban it. I am deeply concerned with USDA’s latest attempt at potentially restricting our children’s access to flavored milk in schools. USDA’s proposed rule, which updates the nutrition standards for school meals, threatens the ability of schools to offer flavored milk by limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per week and potentially banning flavored milk in schools for grades K-8.
I remain deeply concerned with how these top-down regulations will affect our schools’ abilities to provide flavored milk for children. While schools struggle to adhere to the burdensome mandates, flavored milk may be one of the first items schools will be forced to cut.
This proposal is unacceptable, and I will do everything in my power to stop these efforts. The Biden Administration must continue to allow flavored milk for all grade levels, kindergarten through high school. Our children are currently not consuming the recommended levels of dairy, and this proposal from the Biden Administration will exacerbate this concerning deficiency by placing further restrictions on milk in schools.
We must ensure that children have access to milk choices in schools and the nutrients they provide. I urge the Biden Administration to exclude flavored milk from the weekly added sugars limit in order to ensure our children have access to the nutrients they need for growth and development. On behalf of our families and dairy farmers in Upstate New York and the North Country, I urge the Biden Administration to let our students drink chocolate milk!
I am incredibly honored to serve you as your Congresswoman in NY-21, and I will always lead the effort to ensure our school children have access to milk choices in schools. Our children wouldn’t be able to enjoy milk’s nutritious benefits without our hardworking dairy farmers tirelessly producing milk every single day. On this National Milk Day, be sure to thank a dairy farmer for all they do for our families and communities across the nation.