Near Unanimous Support for Milk in School Meals Among Parents With School-aged Children.
Nine-in-ten voters with children in public schools say making sure school meals are healthy and nutritious for children in their community is a priority, according to a new Morning Consult national tracking poll commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). Ninety-two percent of these parents also indicated that they believe providing milk in school meals is important to a child’s daily nutritional intake, while approximately 8-in-10 parents supported including low-fat flavored milk in public school meals. IDFA shares this information at the start of National School Lunch Week to remind policymakers of dairy’s essential place in school meals.
Low-income parents and those who participate in federal nutrition programs express even greater interest than the general population in making sure school meals are healthy. According to a 16-year study conducted by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, school meals are the most nutritious meals consumed by American school-aged children. Sixty-two percent of the parents who participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), 56 percent of those who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and 50 percent of those who make less than $50,000 per year say making sure school meals are nutritious and healthy should be a top priority. Consistently, all groups point to milk and dairy as nutritious components of a healthy meal.
“School meals are the bedrock of nutrition security for our youth, particularly among those who are the most in need,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. “This polling underscores that parents understand the importance of school meals, that they believe healthy school meals should be a priority for policymakers, and that they understand the important role dairy products like milk play in ensuring their children receive the nutrients they need for growth, development, healthy immune function, and overall wellness.”
While record federal investment in school meals helped mitigate nutrition security issues for children over the past three years, school meal participation fell significantly at the height of the pandemic and in the months following: total meals served across all federal child nutrition programs declined by nearly 2 billion in FY2020 and remained roughly 1.5 billion lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2021, according to some estimates, although USDA has not yet released full and complete participation data.
“It is absolutely critical at this time for policymakers, school nutrition officials, food makers and parents to come together to find ways to improve nutrition security for our youth,” said Dykes. “Nutritious dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese play a pivotal role in providing children with an excellent source of 13 essential nutrients, including three of the four nutrients identified as dietary components of public health concern in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), yet the DGA indicates dairy is underconsumed by American children. Boosting consumption of dairy products has been shown to improve overall participation in school meals. Our policymakers should explore every option to boost dairy consumption for the benefit of child nutrition.”
Other results of the poll include:
- Eighty-seven percent of voters with children in public schools believe white milk is healthy for their children to consume in school, second only to water.
- Nine-in-ten voters with children in public schools (91%) found the following message on providing milk to children for public school meals in their community convincing:
“Milk contributes to stronger and healthier bones, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Milk is the leading source of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium for American children ages 2 to 18.”
- Three-fourths of voters on federal nutrition programs (76%), SNAP participants (78%), and WIC participants (74%) with children in public schools believe it is important to have low-fat flavored milk options in school meals.
- One-third of voters with children in public schools find whole milk (36%) and 2% milk (34%) to be the most nutritious. Only four percent believe skim milk (4%) is the most nutritious.
- Voters with children in public schools believe low-fat flavored milk and fruit juice are equally as healthy for children in their community to consume in school.
The poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IDFA. The national poll was conducted on September 1-6, 2022, among a sample of 1,666 Registered Voters with Children in Public Schools, including 709 voters that participate in at least one federal nutrition feeding program. Interviews were conducted online. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
To read the results of the survey, visit here.