School milk

Children at Immanuel Lutheran School in Twin Falls, Idaho, enjoy chocolate milk. A new poll found that, in addition to flavored milk, consumers prefer 2% and whole milk over lower fat milk.

As students head back to the classroom, the International Dairy Foods Association is hoping a national survey of consumers will encourage lawmakers to provide more milk offerings in schools.

Currently only fat-free and low-fat 1% milk, unflavored and flavored, are allowed in school nutrition programs. Low-fat flavored milk had been banned in 2012 but returned to schools as an option in February following USDA’s final rule allowing it last December.

IDFA would like to see more milk options in schools, including the fuller-fat milk youngsters consume at home.

Adult consumers overwhelmingly believe reduced-fat 2% and whole milk are the most nutritious types of milk, according to a national poll taken in August by Morning Consult in partnership with IDFA.

The survey found 67% of respondents chose those two options, with 36% choosing 2% milk and 31% choosing whole milk. It also found 53% believe it is important to offer those fuller-fat options in school meals.

In addition, the survey found at least 86% of adults think dairy milk is more nutritious than other beverages, including plant-based alternatives.

“The results of the poll affirm that the vast majority of the public believes dairy milk is nutritious and they believe it is important to have more dairy milk options for their kids at school,” Matt Herrick, IDFA senior vice president for executive and strategic communications, told Capital Press.

Outside school programs, the survey found 46% of respondents participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as SNAP — believe whole milk is the most nutritious and 30% believe 2% is the most nutritious.

Respondents with annual incomes under $50,000, which include SNAP participants and recipients of the Women, Children and Infants nutrition program known as WIC, also weighed in for fuller-fat milks. In that demographic, 36% believe 2% milk is the most nutritious and 34% believed whole milk tips the scale.

The poll also gauged opinions along party lines, finding 67% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans think 2% and whole milk are the most nutritious.

It also tracked responses by gender, finding 66% of females and 68% of males believe 2% and whole milk are the most nutritious.

It is important that policymakers and regulators who influence what consumers eat stay grounded in what American families prefer and value, and the poll shows support for fuller-fat milk, according to IDFA.

“Now we will bring that message back to the public and to policymakers and decision makers in the government,” Herrick said.

“Some of the policy discussions in Washington — especially those regarding school meals, nutrition programs and dietary guidelines — are completely out of step with consumer preference and habits, as well as sound dietary guidance,” he said.

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