Tennessee whole milk bill gets the okay from governor

Also in this week’s K-12 legislative update: Iowa announces summer meals site grant program, a Colorado bill looks to give students longer lunch periods and a bill that would expand free school meal access in New Hampshire has been killed.
milk cartons
A new Tennessee law would allow schools to serve whole milk in dispensers. | Photo: Shutterstock

It’s been an active week at the state level when it comes to school nutrition. Lawmakers in a handful of states have recently been making decisions on whole milk in schools, expanding free school meals and more.

Here’s a rundown of the latest in school nutrition legislation. 

Tennessee governor says yes to whole milk bill

A Tennessee bill that allows schools to serve whole milk was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee.

Under the National School Lunch Program, schools are only allowed to serve low-fat or fat-free milk. It can be flavored or unflavored. SB 1914  aims to get around that requirement, however, by requiring that the whole milk be served from milk dispensers that are separate from the school lunch line where federal regulations would apply.

“It's separate from your lunch service, but it's always available,” sponsor Rep. Mark Cochran told the Tennessee House K-12 Subcommitee last month.

It remains to be seen if this workaround will receive pushback from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Milk options in schools have been a topic of interest as of late. In December, the U.S. House passed the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 which would also allow whole milk again in schools. The bill was blocked in the Senate shortly after.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also currently deciding whether to further limit flavored milk in schools by offering it to only students in grades 9-12. It expects to announce its decision sometime this month.

Iowa announces summer meals grant funding

After turning down a federal program that would provide food benefits to low-income children over the summer, Iowa is allocating $900,000 in grant funding to expand summer meal sites in the state.

Through the grant program, summer meal site sponsors can apply to receive anywhere from $2,500to $30,000 in grant funding to either launch a summer meal site or expand their number of existing meal sites.

Iowa was one of several states who opted out of the USDA’s Summer EBT program which provides low-income families with money to buy food during the summer months when children aren’t in school.

Under Summer EBT, families receive $40 per child each month while school is not in session. The federal government covers the benefit costs associated with the program, but participating states are responsible for paying half of the administrative costs.

Colorado bill would establish lunch period task force

A new bill in Colorado aims to look for ways to provide students more time to eat at school.

HB 1301 would require the state to set up a task force that would analyze different ways to improve the amount of time students have for lunch. The task force would then be required to submit their recommendations to the state's Board of Education by December of this year.

The task force would be made up of students, parents, school nutrition staff and other stakeholders.

A 2021 study found that longer lunch times may improve student nutrition.

New Hampshire lawmakers kill bill to expand free school meal access

A bill that would have expanded free school meal access in the state has been killed in the House. 

House lawmakers voted to table HB 1212 which would have raised the income cap for families to participate in free meals at school from 185% of the federal poverty level to 350% of the federal poverty level.

Funding to cover the additional free meals would have come from the state’s education trust fund.

See which states currently offer universal free meals via the map below:



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