School milk: Time to be bold for our kids

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, May 11, 2018  

EAST EARL, Pa. — One would think there would be overwhelming support in the official dairy community for the Whole Milk Act, H.R. 5640, introduced by Rep. Tom Marino, representing Pennsylvania’s 10th legislative district.

Since the bill was introduced on the floor of the United States House of Representatives April 26, it has been given a name and assigned to Education and Workforce Committee that oversees the National School Lunch Program. While the Ag Committee is not the committee for this bill, the USDA’s part is the implementation of the rules and reimbursements of the National School Lunch Program — and its approval of five-year cycles of U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans that drive these rules.

cosponsorsMarino’s Whole Milk Act has just one cosponsor as of May 9. That would be longtime whole milk advocate Glenn (G.T.) Thompson — representing Pennsylvania’s 5th legislative district. Thompson is now noted at the bill-tracking website as an original cosponsor.

That’s a good thing, because Thompson serves on the Education and Workforce Committee that oversees the National School Lunch Program, Marino does not. Thompson also is vice chair of the House Ag Committee.

Two more cosponsors include Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky. But more cosponsors are needed!

Where are the farm and dairy associations on the school milk issue? Where, indeed, is the “dairy lobby”? The folks who collect, assemble, process, market and distribute the milk produced on dairy farms? Where is National Milk Producers Federation? Where is the International Dairy Foods Association?

Back at square-one: 1%. Taking baby steps in the face of a brick wall.

Chris Galen, senior vice president of communications for National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) explains it this way: “While (NMPF is) supportive of efforts to increase milk consumption at school and having more options to help achieve that goal and we  are talking with Rep. Marino about his intentions to move the bill forward, and how he can build support for the measure…”

Wait for it, there is a ‘but’…

“At the same time, we also have to secure the progress made so far to upgrade milk options in school. That’s why we’re also working with Rep. Thompson to help pass his H.R. 4101, which codifies the decision made by Sec. Perdue to allow flavored 1% milk in the schools,” Galen stated in an email response to questions from Farmshine this week. We are still waiting on a response from IDFA.

Last fall, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue made an administrative change to the National School Lunch Program allowing schools to serve 1% flavored milk. They were already permitted to sell 1% unflavored milk.

States then implement this change by filling out waivers to show that children were drinking less milk because of the fat-free option being the only option for flavored milk in order to then switch to allowing 1% flavored milk.

Kids on a school break

While both 1% milk and whole milk have the same essential nutrients, the children don’t benefit if the nutrients are not consumed and the evidence shows the fat is actually good for adults and especially children. Let’s stand up for our children. There was never any evidence they would benefit from the old heart patient’s diet at school in the first place, and mounting evidence shows what the lowfat craze has done and is doing to them. Istock photo andresr imaging

In Pennsylvania, alone, the Pa. Department of Agriculture reported in March that over 300 schools filled out waivers to serve the choice of 1% flavored milk. Many did not implement the change due to having school milk contracts already set for the current school year. Some have recently added the 1% flavored milk.

For the next school year, the waivers are not necessary. Schools may simply make the choice to include the choice of 1% flavored milk in their contract bids for next school year.

Without a change in the law, however, Sec. Perdue’s administrative change could revert to fat-free in the future, says Galen.

He indicated that the USDA action to allow 1% flavored milk “as welcome as it is, is merely an administrative decision, and could be rolled back in the future by a different administration, which is why it needs a law to fully implement.”

NMPF and IDFA have been on-record publicly as supportive of Thompson’s H.R. 4101 but have not come out with any public statement on Marino’s H.R. 5640.

When asked about NMPF’s support for Marino’s H.R. 5640, Galen stated: “It’s worth noting that this will be an incremental process, given the gradual evolution of dietary science along with the snail’s pace of Congress.”

Thompson’s bill, H.R. 4101, with 38 cosponsors to-date, was introduced in the House on October 24, 2017 and referred to the Education and Workforce Committee, on which Thompson serves.

Marino’s bill, H.R. 5640, with just one cosponsor, Thompson, was introduced in the House on April 26, 2018 and referred to the Education and Workforce Committee, on which Marino does not serve, but cosponsor Thompson does.

Neither bill has been taken up by the Committee.

“Making progress toward allowing higher fat content milks in schools is a function of both whether there is bipartisan support on the committees in the House and Senate that oversee the issue, and also whether there is support in the nutrition community, without whose positive engagement we will not be able make any headway on the issue,” notes Galen for NMPF.

He adds that the composition of the Education and Workforce committee is not the same as the Agriculture committee.

“So, we are pushing to make progress on the issue, but it’s a bigger chore than just asking the dairy sector to pitch in — consumer and health groups have to be part of the coalition. We are sharing with them the emerging science on dairy fat, but that’s an evolutionary process,” notes Galen. “You can’t just send them Nina Teicholz’s book and expect two generations of conventional wisdom about food, wellness and obesity to suddenly change.”

Teicholz spoke during the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit last February about the nutrition aristocracy and her 10 years of investigation as a science journalist and former vegetarian.

Her International and New York Times Best Seller “The Big Fat Surprise” has been around since before the last Dietary Guidelines cycle was begun and later approved by then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Her book exposed the tactics and lack of evidence that brought dietary guidelines to the current fat caps that are still in place today — despite proof and trends both showing the flawed nature of these guidelines and the harm to children for which there was never any evidence in the first place suggesting caps on saturated fat would be beneficial in any way.

Rise+in+US+Overwight+Obsetity+Coincides+with+DGA

Nutrition Coalition image

To the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming that these guidelines actually harm children, which is the reason the long title for Rep. Marino’s Whole Milk Act (H.R. 5640) spells it out like this: The Wholesome Healthy Original Lactic Excellence Making Intelligent Literate Kids Act.

Looking at the science and the trends, this title for the bill on whole milk, says it all.

Marino’s H.R. 5640 specifically targets the unflavored milk options allowed in school. Thompson’s H.R. 4101 “codifies” the step taken by Sec. Perdue last fall on 1% flavored milk.

Both bills can be vigorously supported. They are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps the Education and Workforce Committee can combine them?

The Nutrition Coalition, founded by Teicholz, — with support from many nutrition, health and medical advocates — brings together the evidence and seeks to challenge the “conventional wisdom” foisted upon the public by the national and international nutrition aristocracy that controls the food supply today.

Leading cardiologists are up to date on their recommendations for middle-aged men even though the American Heart Association is dragging its feet. (I know this from personal experience as well).

PERSONAL-PHOTO-FOR-SCHOOL-MILK (1).jpg

If a cardiac patient in his mid-50s — such as my husband just 14 months ago — can be offered, not just served, a carton of whole milk right out of the cath lab at the esteemed Lancaster General Heart and Vascular Institute, then why can’t our children be served the best nutritional option of whole milk in our schools? I am grateful for my in-shape-and-stress-test-passing husband’s recovery from five stents that had the medical staff in disbelief last year. The point here is that leading cardiologists, like his, recognize the role of sugar in heart disease and the fact that as we remove saturated fats from our diets, our bodies replace this with additional calories from carbohydrates. The science shows no harmful impact — and in fact positive effects on hearth health and other health concerns — in consuming even 18% of calories from saturated fat. That’s nearly double the “conventional wisdom” that controls our food supply today. Photo selfie by Sherry Bunting February 2017.

If leading cardiologists are focusing on dietary sugars and the abundance of carbs in the diet — letting go of flawed guidelines on saturated fat — why is there so much dragging of feet where our children are concerned? Why, indeed, given the fact that as Teicholz points out, there was never any evidence — in the first place — that children would benefit from caps on saturated fats.

Still the U.S. government pushed the lowfat agenda and the dairy industry, in effect, acquiesced, only in the past two years supporting “incremental” change.

“Right now, we don’t yet even have a permanent law permitting 1% flavored milk in schools, so we need to start with that and then move from there,” Galen insists.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO), dubbed as the supreme agency in terms of being a nutrition aristocracy for status quo – no matter what the science says – weighed in with a statement this week upholding the over 30 years of flawed dietary guidelines.

WHO persists in its recommendation that adults – and children — should consume a maximum of 10% of their daily calories in the form of saturated fat such as meat and butter and 1% from trans fats, to maintain a healthy heart.

Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development said in a statement this week: “Dietary saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are of particular concern because high levels of intake are correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.”

This regurgitation of proven flawed “conventional wisdom” disregards randomized controlled studies to the contrary at double these levels of dietary fat.

And even though it disregards the evidence, even the WHO’s weigh-in this week does not preclude whole milk, real butter, real cheese, real beef from the school diet. The problem is that not all calories have the same metabolic effect and the calorie threshold of the school lunch program was lowered by the Obama administration, along with the current requirements that less than 9% of those calories can come from saturated fats. This is a further level to the problem.

Last month after USDA closed its unprecedented 30-day public comment period on specific topics for the 2020-25 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, nearly 6000 comments were posted by concerned citizens.

The Nutrition Coalition reports that the USDA sought this input on topics where the science has evolved, particularly on saturated fats and low-carbohydrate diets.

“The results demonstrate a widespread belief that the Guidelines need to be changed in order to reflect the best and most current science,” the Nutrition Coalition reports. “Of the 5944 comments, 1145 mention ‘saturated’ as in ‘saturated fats’, 1288 mention ‘low-carb.’”

This was an unprecedented opportunity to stand up for good science, and the public responded.

The Whole Milk Act is another opportunity to stand up for good science. Let’s respond.

Will the U.S. food and agricultural system continue to dance to the agendas of the World Health Organization? World Trade Organization? One World Order philosophy?

Will we sit back and allow two generations of flawed advice — based on absolutely zero studies on children and even refuted by actual trials when they were finally shown the light of day on adults?

Will we continue to face the brick wall of control over what is best for our children with timid and child-like baby steps? If so, it will it take two generations to right this wrong.

Meanwhile, it is our children and our farmers who will pay the price for our complacency.

There are several ways we can all help support Rep. Marino’s Whole Milk Act.

Contact your representative in the U.S. House and ask them to cosponsor and support H.R. 5640 The Whole Milk Act. If you don’t know who to call, enter your zipcode here to find out who represents you

Also, call the U.S. House of Representatives at 202-225-3121 and let them know that H.R. 5640 is important for the health and well-being of our schoolchildren.

In addition, contact members of the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Committee chairwoman. Ask them to put this bill on the committee’s agenda. Its passage must begin in this committee.

Also, write to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue or contact the USDA with your support for the letter Rep. Marino has sent in conjunction with introducing H.R. 5640 The Whole Milk Act. USDA is key to making school milk great again by making it whole again.

Finally, contact Rep. Tom Marino’s office and thank him 202-225-3731.

Follow H.R. 5640, The Whole Milk Act, at this link.

(Author’s note: Since this report was published, the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Dealers announced their official support for The Whole Milk Act)

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