Chocolate Milk Crusader: Wisconsin lawmaker fights to keep the delights of dairy in U.S. schools

Right now in Washington, a battle is brewing over chocolate milk in schools. Find out how one Wisconsin Congressman is making it his mission to champion dairy nutrition and keep flavored milk an option for students.

When most Americans look back on the school lunches served in school cafeterias, there is likely not much nostalgia for the food. However, many will recall the fond experience of carefully unfolding the paper tabs on a tiny carton of milk and enjoying the first big gulp of ice-cold chocolate milk — a sweet memory kids in school today will not get a chance to savor.

Over the years, national standards have greatly improved the widespread accessibility to whole foods in schools as well as increased the nutritional value of school lunches served each day across the country. However, some lawmakers in Washington say the standards have moved a step too far — and a recent decision by the Biden Administration is taking the joy, and flavor, out of school lunch staples like milk.

M.I.L.K.: Milk is Indisputably Liked by Kids

One such lawmaker is U.S. Representative Tom Tiffany (R-WI), who is firing back at a recent decision by the Biden administration to put flavored milk, including chocolate milk, on the nutritional chopping block. That is why he is spearheading an effort to reintroduce chocolate milk in schools, embarking on a quest to ensure kids receive the essential nutrition they need in a way that they will enjoy.

Rep. Tiffany, along with seven other members of Congress, recently introduced the Milk is Indisputably Liked by Kids Act of 2023 — or the MILK Act for short. This piece of legislation would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and require schools to offer flavored milk under the school lunch program.

The amendment also aims to stop federal spending efforts to prevent schools from offering milk on their menus. Tiffany says the legislation is a vital measure to ensure that children have access to milk in schools, emphasizing its nutritional value.

GOT (Chocolate) MILK?

The Biden Administration’s nutrition standards affect approximately 30 million students participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) School Meal Program. According to estimates by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the removal of flavored milk options has led to a drastic 60-percent decrease in milk consumption by children.

The shift away from offering flavored milk in schools is a move that has ignited passionate debate among lawmakers and raised concerns in dairy-rich states like Wisconsin. Tiffany, who represents the seventh district of America’s Dairyland, believes this decision is far from ideal. His sentiment is also shared by the Dietetic Association of America as well as those who view milk as a valuable source of nutrition for children.

Making the Case for Flavored Milk

This decline in dairy consumption among America’s youth raises concerns about whether children are getting the necessary nutrients they need, and it underscores the importance of reevaluating policies related to milk in schools.

While flavored milk like chocolate or strawberry milk may seem like an indulgence to some, it packs the same nutritional punch as plain milk. It is also an effective means to ensure kids have access to a well-rounded diet that includes dairy.

According to Tiffany, his advocacy is more than a matter of policy or an affront to lawmakers on the other side of the aisle — but more so, a means of protection for Wisconsin’s rich dairy heritage and a reflection of dairy’s importance in the American diet.

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