Dunking the Milk Mandate in Schools
We are working to end an archaic and wasteful milk mandate in the National School Lunch Program — a mandate that puts a carton of milk on every tray regardless of consumer wishes. The solution is to give kids a choice of a nutritionally equivalent plant-based milk. By eliminating the government mandate and scaling back unwanted milk marketing and distribution, one outcome may be better treatment of cows on farms.
The National School Lunch Program has a “milk mandate” for children who qualify for the nutrition assistance program (30 million kids are provided with lunch, and 15 million with breakfast). The problem is, millions of kids who participate in the program are lactose intolerant, and dairy milk makes them sick, causing many of them to throw the milk away or to drink it and risk illness. Kids need a choice, and soymilk has been recognized under the American Dietary Guidelines. Soy is one of the biggest agricultural sectors in the U.S., with more than 500,000 farmers who’d like to see their product offered in the schools.
Not only does the program waste $300 million in taxpayer dollars every year, but it ignores the sacrifices of the cows who produce the milk. A cow on an industrial farm produces 22,500 pounds of milk in a year (more than three times the volume that a cow produced decades ago), with the animals often suffering from foot, leg, and mammary problems, with nearly half of cows having inflammation of their udders (mastitis).
We are working with a partner organization to have alternatives to dairy milk made available to American’s schoolchildren. This is especially important given that 75 percent of African Americans are lactose intolerant, 90 percent of Asian Americans and Native Americans, and 60 percent of Latinos. In 2020, the National Dietary Guidelines recognized soy milk as a nutritional equivalent to dairy cow milk. But nutritional equivalency and cafeteria availability are not the same thing. We want school districts reimbursed for soymilk, just as the USDA reimburses schools for dairy, so that this plant-based milk is available to kids who want nutrition delivered without adverse side effects.
The ADD SOY Act, introduced in the House, would end milk mandate in public schools and give kids a healthy choice. Read more here.
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