Good nutrition is the foundation of health and wellness, and dairy is a crucial part of a healthy diet beginning at a very young age. In fact, no other type of food or beverage provides the range and density of nutrients that dairy contributes to the American diet. Cow’s milk alone has been found to rehydrate the body better than water and delivers 11 essential nutrients that everyone needs to stay healthy. Overall, dairy provides numerous health benefits, including better bone health and lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dairy products also play an important role in the diet of children, where dairy is the top source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D in kids ages 2-18. Moreover, a growing body of data and research underscores the role that dairy—at all fat levels—should play in a healthy diet.
This research supplements decades of data and advice supporting dairy’s vital dietary role and bolsters IDFA’s efforts to keep three daily servings of dairy front and center with American policy makers, lawmakers and consumers.
IDFA believes dairy products provide a powerful package of nutrients and protein that remains one of the best values available today. We’ve been tireless in making the case for increasing the variety of dairy products served to students in schools and child care, low-income Americans through the SNAP and WIC programs, and made available to those struggling to make ends meet at America’s food banks. This is important as Congress considers updates to the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act and to appropriations funding vital nutrition programs. We continue to promote the nutrition education messages resulting from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans while working to ensure that the 2025-2030 DGAs reflect the science on dairy's role in a healthy diet.
In promoting and defending dairy’s role in a healthy diet, IDFA is focused on four areas: the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC); school meals; and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide advice on the foods and beverages that will help individuals develop a healthy diet, meet nutrition needs and prevent diet-related diseases. The guidelines also set the standards for federal nutrition programs and federal nutrition education messages.
The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in December 2020, affirming the unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods and remind Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy.
Throughout the development of the new Dietary Guidelines, IDFA shared scientific evidence with the advisory committee and the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to support maintaining the number of servings and expand choices to include higher fat levels. IDFA stressed the importance of keeping dairy as a separate and essential food group and asked the advisory committee, USDA, and HHS to consider nutrient density when assessing dairy products with added sugars.
The special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC) provides nutritious foods to supplement the diets of low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding, as well as children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. In 2020, 6.3 million Americans participated in the WIC program, according to USDA data.
It’s been nearly a decade since Congress enacted updates to this program, but a reauthorization process is now underway. IDFA is seeking an update to WIC’s Supplemental Food Package to include flexibility in the varieties and package sizes within allowed food categories that reflect WIC participants’ preferences and market availability, and allow WIC families to maximize benefit redemption. Read more.
The National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program, often referred to as the child nutrition programs, are authorized under the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act and are intended to be reviewed by Congress periodically to meet modern needs. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency and related school closures created unique challenges that were addressed through a combination of Congressional emergency authorizations and USDA administrative waivers providing flexibilities to state agencies and schools. In addition to statutory changes and reauthorizations by Congress, USDA also has an important role in implementing and administering requirements, such as school meal patterns and nutritional guidelines for school meals through program regulations.
Dairy products are nutrient-dense staples of the school meal programs. Both the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and the 2020-2025 DGAs identified dairy, particularly fluid milk, yogurt, and cheese as “nutrient-dense,” with milk providing 11 essential nutrients. The DGAs have found that 90% of Americans do not consume the recommended amount of dairy, including --% of school-age children.
IDFA is a longtime advocate for expanding nutritious milk varieties in schools to maintain dairy consumption for children now and throughout their lifetime by focusing on: preserving flexibility to offer lowfat (1%) flavored milk; increasing container sizes for milk in high schools; ensuring that bottled water is not offered as a substitute for milk; and maintaining program flexibility to recover school meal participation following pandemic-related school closures. Also important to dairy and school meals overall is for sodium target limits have a reasonable phase-in for food manufacturers and schools to implement and accommodations for sodium use for food safety and functional purposes.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) augments the food budgets of low-income people and families so they can purchase nutritious foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and funded by Congress. More than 36 million Americans have taken advantage of SNAP benefits in 2019, according to FNS.
IDFA and others in the dairy industry worked successfully with Congress to add a milk incentive program for SNAP participants to the 2018 Farm Bill. The new Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives Projects program will allow participants to buy more milk and help them to make nutritious choices that support a healthy lifestyle. IDFA wants to remove retail barriers so participants and their children can get at least the minimum number of daily dairy servings recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. Read more.
For more information, contact Joseph Scimeca, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president for legislative affairs and economic policy, at email@example.com.