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Milk

Resource type
Technical Assistance & Guidance
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Fat-free and low-fat milk contain essential nutrients that kids need to grow and thrive, while staying within the calorie and saturated fat limits recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. The proposed rule continues to encourage consumption of fat-free or low-fat milk, while allowing some flavored milk to be offered in school meals.

  • One option proposed would limit flavored milk to children in grades 9-12.
  • A second option would allow flavored milk for children in all grades (K-12).
  • Both options include a proposed added sugars limit for flavored milk.
What are the current requirements for milk?

Currently, schools must offer fat-free and/or low-fat (1%) unflavored milk as part of school breakfasts and lunches. Schools may also offer fat-free and/or low-fat (1%) flavored milk as an option. Either option can be sold as a competitive beverage, which is a drink sold to students on school grounds during the school day, on top of what’s already provided as part of their school meal.

What are the proposed requirements for milk?

This rule proposes two alternatives for the milk standard and is requesting feedback on both: 

  • Alternative A: Beginning in school year (SY) 2025-26, allow flavored milk (fat-free and low-fat) at school lunch and breakfast for high school children (grades 9-12) only. Elementary and middle school children (grades K-8) would be limited to fat-free and/or low-fat unflavored milk. USDA is also requesting public input on whether to extend the age range for flavored milk to also include children in grades 6-8, such that only children in grades K-5 would be limited to fat-free and/or low-fat unflavored milk. Under both scenarios, added sugars in flavored milk would be limited (see: Added Sugars). 
  • Alternative B: Maintain the current standard, which allows all schools to offer fat-free and low-fat milk, flavored and unflavored, at school lunch and breakfast. Added sugars in flavored milk would be limited (see: Added Sugars). 
Why is USDA proposing these changes?

A recent analysis of USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study data found that flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in both the school lunch and breakfast programs, contributing almost half of the added sugars in lunches and about 30% of the added sugars in breakfasts. USDA is offering two alternatives for the milk proposal to gather public feedback on both approaches.

  • Alternative A is aimed at reducing young school children's exposure to added sugars at a time when children’s taste preferences are developing.
  • Alternative B recognizes that flavored milk is a nutrient-dense beverage that many children enjoy. USDA will consider public input when determining which alternative to include in the final standards.
Questions for Public Comment

USDA is specifically seeking feedback on the following topics related to milk:

  • The Dietary Guidelines state that “consuming beverages with no added sugars is particularly important for young children.” As discussed above, one of the two proposals USDA is considering would limit milk choices in elementary and middle schools (grades K-8) to unflavored milk varieties only at school lunch and breakfast. To reduce young children’s exposure to added sugars and promote the more nutrient-dense choice of unflavored milk, should USDA finalize this proposal? Why or why not?  
    • Respondents that support Alternative A are encouraged to provide specific input on whether USDA should limit flavored milk to high schools only (grades 9-12) or to middle schools and high schools only (grades 6-12). 
  • If Alternative A is finalized with restrictions on flavored milk for grades K-8 or K-5 in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), should USDA also pursue a similar change in the School Milk Program (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)? Are there any special considerations USDA should keep in mind for SMP and CACFP operators, given the differences in these programs compared to school meal program operators?  
  • While this rule does not propose changes to the fluid milk substitute requirements, USDA has received stakeholder feedback on the fluid milk substitute process on behalf of children who cannot consume, or have difficulty consuming, cow’s milk. USDA seeks public comment on the following question: What feedback do stakeholders have about the current fluid milk substitute process? USDA is especially interested in feedback from parents and guardians and program operators with firsthand experience requesting and processing a fluid milk substitute request.
How do I submit comments?

USDA invites interested persons to submit written comments on the provisions of this proposed rule between Feb. 7, 2023 through May 10, 2023. Comments related to this proposed rule may be submitted in writing by following the instructions outlined in the Federal Register Notice.

All written comments submitted in response to this proposed rule will be included in the record and will be made available to the public. Please be advised that the substance of the comments and the identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be subject to public disclosure. FNS will make the written comments publicly available on the Internet via https://www.regulations.gov.

Page updated: March 29, 2023