Whole milk in schools gets support from senators

Also in this week’s K-12 legislative update: Louisiana’s governor signs a reduced-price meals bill into law, and a new bill in New Jersey would phase in universal free meals over a period of five years.
A student grabs a milk carton in the cafeteria
Another federal lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow whole milk to be offered at school. | Photo: Shutterstock

Another school milk bill has been introduced federally in the last week. Things have also been busy at the state level, with Louisiana and New Jersey taking steps to expand free meal access for students. 

Take a look at the latest happenings in school meal legislation. 

Federal lawmakers hope to expand school milk offerings with another milk bill 

Shortly after the introduction of the Milk is Indisputably Liked by Kids Act of 2203 (MILK Act), another bill regarding school milk offerings has been introduced at the federal level. 

Debuted by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 would enable schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to offer whole milk to students daily. The bill is co-sponsored by 10 other U.S. senators. 

“Today, 2 out of 3 children do not receive their recommended daily dairy intake. Our legislation aims to change that by reinstating whole milk in school cafeterias,” Marshall said in a statement. “I truly believe food is medicine, and by increasing kids' access to milk, we will help prevent health complications down the road and encourage nutrient-rich diets for years to come. Whole milk is an excellent source of nutrients for students and adults alike in building strong bones. Plus, it tastes good.” 

Federal regulations require schools to serve only low-fat or fat-free milk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently deciding whether to further limit flavored milk in schools by offering it to only students in grades 9-12. 

Louisiana to cover meal costs for more students 

Students in Louisiana who qualify for reduced-price meals at school will now receive those meals for free. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed HB 282 into law, which requires the State Department of Education to cover reduced-price meals at school. The new law goes into effect this upcoming school year.  

The state joins Arizona, New Mexico and Virginia in covering the cost of reduced-price meals for students. 

New Jersey bill would phase in universal free meals 

New Jersey is the latest state to introduce a universal free meals bill. Sponsored by Sen. Teresa Ruiz, the bill would slowly phase in universal free meals over a period of five years. 

Starting next school year, the bill would require schools to serve free meals at school to students who are not federally eligible for free and reduced-price meals and whose household income is no less than 186% (and no more than 199%) of the federal poverty level. Each subsequent year, the bill would expand the household income requirements to make more students eligible for free meals until 2028, when all students would receive free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their household’s financial background. 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. A companion bill has also been introduced in the House. 

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



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