Should Milk Be a Required Part of Federally Subsidized School Meal Programs?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (amended July 2, 2004) stated the following:

"Sec.9 (2) FLUID MILK -

A. IN GENERAL. - Lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program under this Act-

i. shall offer students fluid milk in a variety of fat contents;

ii. may offer students flavored and unflavored fluid milk and lactose-free fluid milk; and

iii. shall provide a substitute for fluid milk for students whose disability restricts their diet, on receipt of a written statement from a licensed physician that identifies the disability that restricts the student's diet and that specifies the substitute for fluid milk...

C. RESTRICTIONS ON SALE OF MILK PROHIBITED. - A school that participates in the school lunch program under this Act shall not directly or indirectly restrict the sale or marketing of fluid milk products by the school (or a person approved by the school) at any time or any place."

July 2, 2004 - National School Lunch Act (397KB)  

The United States Department of Agriculture posted an informational article on its website in July 2007 titled "Special Milk Program" where it described the Special Milk Program:

"The Special Milk Program provides milk to children in schools, child care institutions and eligible camps that do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal service programs. The program reimburses schools and institutions for the milk they serve. In 2006, 4,998 schools and residential child care institutions participated, along with 844 summer camps and 573 non-residential child care institutions.

Schools in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs may also participate in the Special Milk Program to provide milk to children in half-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs where children do not have access to the school meal programs."

July 2007 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 
Federal Reimbursement Rates for Milk in Schools, 2008-2009 (64KB)  

PRO (yes)

The Nutrition Services Division (NSD) of the California Department of Education stated on its website page "Special Milk," (accessed Sep. 19, 2007) that:

"For children, the Special Milk Program provides a nutritious beverage, rich in calcium and vitamins A and D, which aids in the development of strong bones and teeth. For parents, the Program provides a low cost, convenient method of ensuring that their children receive a healthy and delicious beverage when they are away from home. Schools benefit by helping their students take at least one step in a direction that can enhance academic performance -- good nutrition."

[Editor's Note: The Nutrition Services Division of the California Department of Education told, in a Sep. 18, 2007 e-mail, that alternatives to cow's milk, such as soy milk or rice milk, are not eligible for state or federal reimbursement under the Special Milk Program.]

Sep. 19, 2007 - California Department of Education 

The National Dairy Council wrote the following in an article (accessed Nov. 5, 2007) titled "Dairy's Role: Resources for Implementing Your Wellness Policy," posted on its website:

"National Dairy Council® and your local Dairy Council® have been committed to child nutrition and wellness since 1915 and are long-time supporters of the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, and nutrition education.

Milk can, and should be an important part of your School Wellness Policy. Many students get virtually their entire daily dairy consumption at school. Dairy is a nutrient powerhouse providing nine essential nutrients kids need every day. And, dairy products are big on kid-appeal. When eliminating foods of minimal nutrition, it's important to provide children with healthy options they like."

Nov. 5, 2007 - National Dairy Council (NDC) 

Michael Zemel, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, wrote in an Oct. 2, 2007 e-mail to that:

"Regarding the National School Lunch Program, my position is that milk (or a milk-derived product, such as yogurt) should be a mandatory component of this program.

My reasoning, in brief, is that it is difficult to obtain sufficient calcium from other sources, most children and adolescents (especially female) are at-risk with respect to dietary calcium, and that there are few other foods offered that provide the nutrient density of low-fat or fat-free milk."

Oct. 2, 2007 - Michael Zemel, PhD 

The School Nutrition Association wrote in an Aug. 26, 2006 press release titled "School Lunch is the Nutrition Winner!" that:

"Juice boxes are prevalent in lunches brought from home and they encourage children to forgo the purchase of milk to go with their lunch. Nutritionists suggest that 'overjuicing' contributes to low calcium intake as well as weight problems in children. Milk was included in 87% of the school lunches and only 7% of lunches from home. 'The calcium shortage among American children is a major public health issue,' says Gaye Lynn MacDonald, president of the American School Food Service Association. 'Kids' drinks can help make or break good nutrition. That's why milk is always offered as a part of school lunch. Most schools make a point of serving a variety of flavors of milk, as well as low fat and fat free milk choices.'"

Aug. 26 2006 - School Nutrition Association 

CON (no)

Amy Lanou, PhD, Senior Nutrition Scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wrote in a Sep. 25, 2007 e-mail to that:

"Cow's milk should not be required as part of federally subsidized meal programs for children. It is estimated that 1 in 4 children in US schools are lactose intolerant. The milk requirement in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs (NSLBP) puts these children at a disadvantage (especially if they actually drink the milk). Imagine trying to sit still at a desk in class while feeling gassy, bloated, and/or suffering from diarrhea or constipation. Milk products are also the number one source of total fat and saturated fat in children's diets, making them far from ideal.

Soy milk or other non-dairy beverages such as rice milk, juice or water definitely should be offered as part of the NSLP. Children should be offered a beverage with their meal. Currently, there is unnecessary overemphasis on calcium-rich beverage consumption for children in the US. Several recent reviews and meta-analyses have shown that increasing children's calcium consumption does not have an appreciable effect on children's bones. For those seeking a calcium-rich beverage, fortified soy and rice milks or fortified juices would be a better option than dairy milk."

Sep. 25, 2007 - Amy Joy Lanou, PhD 

Frank A. Oski, MD, Former Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in his 1983 book Don't Drink Your Milk that:

"Unfortunately cow milk is still a staple of the government-sponsored school lunch programs. These programs are primarily supposed to benefit children in inner-city schools and are designed to provide students with at least one good meal per day. Most of these children in the major cities are black.

[In a Johns Hopkins study] it was found that among all white children 18 percent were unable to digest lactose [milk sugar] while 33 percent of the black milk drinkers had abnormal tests [were unable to digest lactose].

Although these children had learned that milk drinking would lead to unpleasant consequences for them, the U.S. government is still acting as if it is unaware of the problem."

1983 - Frank A. Oski, MD 

Margaret Moss, MA, Director of the Nutrition and Allergy Clinic in Greater Manchester, UK, wrote in an Oct. 2, 2007 e-mail to that:

"Milk is not a good food for school lunches, as it is very strongly associated with coronary heart disease, probably because of the milk sugar. Hard Cheese is a much safer source of calcium, and is appropriate for school meals, as almost all the sugar has been removed."

Oct. 2, 2007 - Margaret Moss, MA 

E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, wrote in her 2002 book Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink that:

"Few researchers have ever questioned the continuing close relationship between the milk councils and school health programs. In an era when state governments sue tobacco companies for the public health costs of cigarette promotion, governments might want to be especially cautious about close relationships between themselves and a product that has been connected with a major American health problem: heart disease."

2002 - E. Melanie DuPuis, PhD