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PA Dept. of Agriculture: More Milk Choices Available for Schools, Students
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Wolf Administration on Tuesday urged schools to take advantage of a federal regulation change that expands access to more fluid milk choices for students.
During an event in the Capitol Media Center, the departments of Agriculture, Health, and Education explained how schools may now offer more fluid milk options during breakfast and lunch services without needing to obtain a waiver.
“As a parent, I understand the importance of ensuring my children have access to the most nutritious food and drinks when they are at school,” said Executive Deputy Secretary Michael Smith. “As schools prepare to welcome students back this year, we encourage them to remember to provide healthy dairy options that taste good and help students learn, grow, and achieve.”
Joining Smith were Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and Director of Food and Nutrition for the Department of Education Vonda Ramp, who discussed the nutritional benefits of milk on student growth and learning.
“Back to school is an important time of year to make sure that kids are healthy,” said Dr. Robinson. “Part of being healthy is making sure that kids are getting a healthy, balanced diet. Drinking milk is an essential part of a healthy diet for children.”
In May 2017, revised federal guidance allowed schools to request a waiver to serve one percent flavored milk in schools. To receive a waiver, school food service directors needed to prove waste or complaints by students or parents. That year, 244 school districts and 64 individual schools applied for and received waivers.
Under new guidance for the 2018-2019 school year, low-fat flavored milk is now allowed without a waiver through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule for Child Nutrition Programs.
This month, the departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health sent a joint letter to encourage schools to take advantage of this new flexibility. In recognition of the vital role schools play in both nourishing children and supporting local economies, the departments also asked schools to consider choosing Pennsylvania dairy producers and vendors when selecting the healthy products they offer students.
“The Department of Education encourages schools to expand the options and varieties of nutritional products offered to students,” said Ramp. “Milk is a key piece of any good diet, and students should be able to incorporate it into their school days during both breakfast and lunch if that is their preference.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture unveiled its new Dairy Development Plan, which includes a series of intermediate- and longer-term strategies, designed to complement and supplement other work and short-term accomplishments of the Wolf Administration specific to dairy. These strategies include making better use of existing funding to support research and development; placing an emphasis on identifying economic development projects; providing incentives for existing producers to upgrade their dairy equipment and facilities and invest in on-farm processing capacity; further streamlining and reforming Pennsylvania’s regulatory processes; and promoting the sale, consumption, and health benefits of Pennsylvania milk.
The Wolf Administration has undertaken several initiatives to strengthen the commonwealth’s dairy industry, including actively working to attract new processors to Pennsylvania and surveying county economic development organizations to create an inventory of sites suitable for a dairy processing operation. The fiscal year 2018-19 budget also includes $5 million dedicated to spurring additional investment and innovation in the dairy industry, which may be used for projects focused on research and development, organic transitioning, value-added processing, and marketing efforts.
Read the Dairy Development Plan at agriculture.pa.gov. Find brands that locally source their milk, a map of PA Preferred® and other Pennsylvania-based milk processors, and other consumer information at choosepadairy.com.
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