Protecting One Percent Flavored Milk in Schools

Nov 27, 2019
little girl drinking chocolate milk

With the next generation of dairy lovers coming through schools, Dairy MAX focuses on teaching healthy habits and providing students with positive dairy experiences. Programs like Fuel Up to Play 60, Dairy Dollars for Schools and Built w/ chocolate milk reinforce an already existing trust in dairy and encourage students to choose dairy as adults. Local dairy checkoff is also committed to protecting milk in school meals, which means adapting to changing school meal standards.

Milk has been a fundamental part of school meals since the creation of the school meal program in 1946. Since then, school meal program standards have been required to remain consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One percent, or low-fat, flavored milk was removed from meal standards in 2012, mandating schools to only serve fat-free flavored milk, along with low-fat and fat-free white milk.

A waiver was announced in 2017 that allowed schools to continue serving one percent flavored milk if they could provide proof of waste or complaints. This prompted Dairy MAX to form a task force focused on encouraging schools and dairy processors to incorporate one percent flavored milk. The task force targeted communications to school districts by leading discussions with child nutrition directors and providing point-of-purchase materials.

“The one percent flavored milk task force is a cross-functional team that was created to advance and promote the USDA flexibilities in the school meal program specifically as it relates to school milk,” says Gretchen Crichton, manager, business development. “Last fall, the group worked with the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) to provide merchandising free of charge to schools that implemented one percent flavored and promoted the new offering to students.”

Federal guidelines for the 2018-2019 school year allowed districts to offer one percent flavored milk without a waiver, with the final School Meal Flexibility Rule published by USDA last month. Dairy MAX’s team of school wellness consultants continue promoting one percent flavored milk to schools in the region, sharing studies conducted by the National Dairy Council showing that students prefer the taste of one percent flavored over fat-free and are more likely to participate in school meals. 

“We know that adding options like one percent flavored milk has been shown to increase overall fluid milk consumption and sales,” says Alyson Kirchner, vice president, school marketing.

Another key message Dairy MAX shares is milk’s unique nutrient package that can be difficult to replace. Options that promote milk consumption could help close student’s nutrient gap. Now that the USDA ruling is final, child nutrition departments can move forward with certainty when planning their menus for next school year.

“We’re working to get this message out to every child nutrition department in our region,” says Kirchner. “From incorporating it in their bids with processors, to balancing the nutrition within menu regulations and marketing to students and parents, we support them through every stage of the process.”

As of fall 2019, 12% of students in the Dairy MAX region are enrolled in school districts now serving 1% flavored milk. 

Processors and School Districts (updated fall 2019) 

Processors Producing 1% Flavored: 

  • Dean Foods
  • Meadow Gold
  • Browns
  • Oak Farms (Houston and Dallas)
  • Hiland
  • Borden (Dallas and Louisiana) 
  • Plains Dairy
  • Kleinpeter 

School Districts Serving 1% Flavored: 

  • 115 districts in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas