‘Vote Whole Milk’ yard signs aim to mooove school lunch milk bills forward, here’s how to help!

Nelson Troutman, a dairy farmer in Berks County who started the “Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free” round bale painting in January 2019 that led to the 97 whole milk education effort, was the first to get a “Vote Whole Milk — School Lunch Choice” yard sign. He’s pictured here with grandchildren (l-r) Jase, Emma, Evelyn, Carolyn, Jocelyn, Nolan, Madalyn. Photo submitted

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Sept. 25, 2020

EPHRATA, Pa. — It’s campaign season, and here’s a campaign everyone should be able to get behind: “Vote WHOLE MILK — School Lunch Choice — Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition.”

The Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk LLC are urging citizens to contact their local school boards and other community leaders about adopting resolutions to show federal and state governments they support the right to offer the simple choice of whole milk at school. 

Campaign-style yard signs are now available to help communities show their support for the immune-boosting nutrition children love.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey of Morrissey Insurance, Ephrata, Pa. and Nelson Troutman, the Berks County dairy farmer who painted the first “Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free” round bale, are working together to print yard signs (pictured with this article) and gain sponsorships from additional agribusinesses to make them available to customers and the public.

The first print-run of 300 were supported by and are available from these PA businesses: Wenger’s Equipment of Myerstown, Sensenig’s Feed Mill of New Holland, K&K Feeds of Richland, Triple M Feeds of Lebanon, and Morrissey Insurance of Ephrata and Troy. 

“We are continuing to work on this issue of whole milk choice in schools and are concerned about children having this choice. The signs are professional campaign-style 24-inch by 18-inch yard signs, and it is important that we get them placed as soon as possible,” said Morrissey. “We are looking for others to join us as concerned citizens for children’s immune boosting nutrition, to get a sign, or several signs, and get them placed. They catch attention and show support.”

Morrissey just ordered a second round of 300 signs, so there will be more available shortly for more businesses to get involved in sponsorship and distribution. Companies that want a supply to give out to customers and/or the public can call Bernie at 610.693.6471 to acquire them at cost.

Bernie Morrissey doesn’t quit. At age 84, he is a powerhouse for dairy. On a beautiful sunny day this week, he was delivering “Vote Whole Milk — School Lunch Choice” yard signs. Requests have come in from Wisconsin, New York and Virginia to do a bulk supply of signs and Bernie is having a second-run of 300 signs printed for a total of 600 in PA. The first 300 signs popping up in southeast and southcentral Pennsylvania are sponsored and available from Morrissey Insurance, Sensenig’s Feed Mill, Wenger’s of Myerstown, K&K Feeds and Triple M Farms. The second 300 are up for grabs to businesses that want to make them available to customers and the public. If so, contact Bernie at 610.693.6471 to acquire a supply of signs at the printing cost of $6 each (plus shipping if they can’t be picked up). Or to find out how to simply have one for your yard, visit the businesses sponsoring them or call Bernie. 

These yard signs include the 97milk.com website where people can go for information about the issue and the effort to bring whole milk choice back to schools.

A “Take Action” tab at the 97milk.com website provides online visitors with information about the issue and how school boards can adopt supportive resolutions. There, they also learn about the Dietary Guidelines process, as well as two bills in Congress and how to send a message to Senators and Representatives asking them to cosponsor and support the bills that would simply allow schools to offer a choice of milks, including whole milk (3.25%) and reduced-fat milk (2%), which are currently banned.

In January 2019, Rep. Glenn G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania introduced the bipartisan House Bill 832 Whole Milk for Healthy Kids with co-sponsor Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota. Today, it has 42 cosponsors but has not been considered by the House Education and Labor Committee. Senate Bill 1810 Milk in Lunches for Kids was introduced by Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson in June 2019 and has only 3 cosponsors.

Having publicized the “Vote Whole Milk – School Lunch Choice” effort on social media, 97 Milk received hundreds of shares, likes and comments and a few emails with additional questions. After one school asked for a sample resolution, such a template was developed. 

To-date, one school in Wisconsin reports formally adopting the resolution, while two other schools report they are looking at it.

The resolution sample here is also available online on the second page of the “Take Action” document at https://www.97milk.com/wp-content/uploads/TakeAction_092820.pdf

Asking school boards to show support for whole milk choice is one way to help the legislative efforts that are currently stalled in Congress. As schools adopt resolutions, this sends a message to USDA. 

An earlier effort consisted of submitting a 30,000-plus-signature petition to members of Congress, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, legislative committee chairs, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the DGA Federal Register Docket for Comment, and others.

The petition brought awareness but failed to increase the number of cosponsors for the two bills. This means members of Congress are un-moved on this issue despite over 30,000 signatures from across the country requesting the choice of whole milk in schools.

Over the past year, a few representatives of dairy checkoff, dairy industry organizations and a couple dairy processors have indicated in conversation that schools do not support whole milk choice because they can’t afford whole milk.

The idea behind the “Vote Whole Milk — School Lunch Choice” yard signs — and the sample school board resolutions — is to get parents and communities involved and to give schools the opportunity to show their tangible support for children’s immune boosting nutrition. This is a way for schools and communities to send a signal to state and federal policymakers that they want children to simply have the right to choose whole milk at school instead of being restricted to fat-free and 1% low-fat milk. Enough is enough.

This effort also seeks to make more parents aware that the federal government indeed currently restricts school milk offerings to be only fat-free or 1% low-fat milk. This is something many parents, teachers and even individual school board members are not fully aware of.

School Boards and other groups adopting resolutions are urged to contact their representatives in Congress and their state agriculture and education departments, as well as USDA Food Nutrition Services Deputy Undersecretary Brandon Lipp to let them know of their action. 

They are also urged to email 97wholemilk@gmail.com in order to be added to a public list of resolution adopters.

Those who are interested in talking with their school boards about adopting a resolution can use the sample, which can then be customized by their board. This sample is also great for state legislatures, town boards, county commissioners, even civic, educational, health, nutrition, agricultural, and parent-teacher organizations to consider adopting. The more the merrier!

Even in this uncertain time of Covid-19, when schools are doing a combination of on-site and virtual learning, the breakfasts and lunches provided to students learning from home must also align to the same USDA Food Nutrition Services regulations that are dominated by the Dietary Guidelines.

Even the school meal “flexibilities” announced by USDA for bulk meal pickups during the pandemic require schools to obtain waivers and fill out paperwork explaining why low-fat and fat-free are not available — before they can offer the whole milk (3.25% fat) or reduced-fat (2%) milk.

With supermarket sales of whole milk rising 6.5% January through July, and fat-free milk sales falling 22% compared with a year ago, it’s obvious more parents choose whole milk for their families at home. Therefore, children should be able to choose the milk they love – the milk they have shown they will drink and not discard – at school.

It’s time to remove the federal government’s heavy hand on school meals and allow schools to simply offer the choice of whole milk for children’s immune boosting nutrition.

Congress and USDA and the Dietary Guidelines process are all dragging heels on this simple change despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits. 

Our schools and community leaders can help get Washington’s attention by adopting resolutions. 

Our citizens can help show community support by placing yard signs and talking to their school boards. 

And our businesses can help by sponsoring and distributing more yard signs and even talking with the civic and community organizations they may belong to.

We can do this!

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