Rep. Marino introduces Whole Milk Act

Seeks to make school milk great again by making it whole again

By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine May 4, 2018

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Peggy Greb, USDA ARS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It has been talked about for years, and the evidence has been put before USDA and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee even before the 2015 cycle began, but while the caps on cholesterol were removed, freeing the egg industry to promote the healthiness of eggs, the caps on saturated fat were left where they are, despite the same body of research and investigation showing just how flawed the 30-plus years of deteriorating dietary advice were from the beginning.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren continue to be served only fat-free and lowfat milk, and this means a huge lost opportunity to serve children the best tasting best nutrition available while improving the loss of milk markets and value affecting dairy farmers across the nation.

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Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10th)

In fact, by at least one estimate, the move by the Obama administration to reduce flavored milk from lowfat (1%) to fat-free, alone, resulted in lost sales of 288 million cartons of milk since 2014 — not to mention milk on the school lunch tray ending up in the trash.

Congressman Tom Marino, representing Pennsylvania’s 10th legislative district seeks to put an end to this loss of dairy nutrition and markets. Last Thursday, April 26, he introduced The Whole Milk Act, H.R. 5640, which was referred to the Committee on Education and Workforce. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina chairs this committee, and G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania, who serves as vice chair of the Ag Committee, also is a member of the Education and Workforce Committee.

In fact, Rep. Thompson later signed on to become an original cosponsor of Marino’s Whole Milk Act.

Rep. Thompson has a separate bill as well, which was introduced last year to codify the small administrative step taken by Secretary Sonny Perdue last fall, allowing 1% lowfat flavored milk to be served in schools instead of the previous rule of fat-free-only. Choices for white milk were already at 1%. Not much forward movement has been seen in the School Milk bill introduced by Thompson.

Marino’s H.R. 5640 affects the unflavored milk offered by schools. It seeks to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program to serve unflavored whole milk.

Rep. Marino also sent a letter to Secretary Perdue last week, asking USDA to update guidelines to the National School Lunch Program to allow schools to sell unflavored whole milk during lunch.

“Under the Obama Administration, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program were barred from selling unflavored whole milk and could only sell 1% unflavored milk,” said Rep. Marino in a statement.

“When the Obama Administration changed the National School Lunch Program to allow only 1% unflavored milk to be sold during school lunches, they claimed to be doing a service for our school children,” Marino’s statement indicated. “We saw the complete opposite, children stopped drinking milk in school, and food waste went up.”

Marino referenced the “Numerous studies that have shown consuming unflavored whole milk to be a good way to prevent childhood obesity and help your body absorb more vitamins. This bill will not only help our children get the proper nutrition they need to lead a healthy lifestyle, but will also help America’s dairy farmers who have been struggling with stagnant milk prices.  I strongly urge my colleagues in the House to support this bill.”

While this bill will not, by itself, correct the issues with milk and dairy in the National School Lunch Program, with its questionable rules on the percentage of lunch calories that are allowed to come from fat, the truth is that if this bill is taken up by the committee and is voted on, passed and signed by the President, it does send a strong message that the needle must move on this issue sooner, rather than later.

Early this week, Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise and founder of the Nutrition Coalition, tweeted her support for H.R. 5640.

“This bill is supported by the science!” writes Teicholz. “Never was there any science (to begin with) to show that kids should restrict their consumption of saturated fats; fats, nutrients are needed for growth.”

The Nutrition Coalition echoed, stating that H.R. 5640, The Whole Milk Act, “is supported by peer-reviewed science showing whole-fat milk is equal to or better for kids than skim.”

In fact, at issue is that while both skim and whole milk contain the 9 essential vitamins found in milk, those 9 essential vitamins do no child any good in their school lunch or breakfast if they don’t make their way from the carton to the belly and end up instead in the trash.

One thing is for sure. Whole milk tastes better. Giving schools this choice allows whole milk, at just 3.25 to 3.5% fat, or even 2% to be the more nourishing choice because it is more likely to be consumed. With better tasting milk at school and the satiety of these healthy fats, children can think better, and this would be a positive step toward turning around the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes.

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With this graph showing the rise in obesity as the Dietary Guidelines worsened from the McGovern food pyramid through today, Big Fat Surprise author Nina Teicholz told PA Dairy Summit attendees in February that this graph, itself, does not show causation, but she revealed the growing number of studies that have proved it as well.

A growing number of cardiologists are already making this recommendation to patients as the veil has been lifted to reveal that consuming fats is not what is making us fat. (See Chart 1).

Chart 2Meanwhile, Teicholz shows that, “The introduction of skim milk is arguably what turned kids away from milk altogether (because it tastes bad); then kids turn to sugar-filled options instead,” she writes on Twitter. “The drop in milk consumption is driven by the decline in whole milk.” (See Chart 2).

In a separate letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Rep. Marino notes that “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required USDA to update federal nutrition standards for school meals. This update included schools only being able to offer one cup of fat-free or I% milk. These changes have led to a decrease in milk consumption and a significant increase in food waste in schools. Additionally, these guidelines have negatively impacted America’s dairy farmers who have been suffering from low milk prices and a significant decrease in the purchase of fluid milk.”

He notes that not only is milk the number one source of 9 essential nutrients, “it also provides  significant health benefits. For instance, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a fatty acid found in milk, has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and is a great source of protein,” writes Marino. “Furthemore, if children do not drink milk, it is very difficult for them to get sufficient amounts of three of the four major nutrients lacking in most children’s diets: calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.”

Marino notes that the bonus is that “increased milk sales would help America’s dairy farmers who have been impacted by stagnant milk prices.

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

First, contact your cooperative board members and ask them to let National Milk Producers Federation know that the dairy producers they represent want this bill supported. Contact organizations you are a member of, including your state Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation and state and national breed associations, for example.

Most importantly, 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, check this link to the Education and Workforce Committee and look for members who may be from your state, contact them, and the Committee chairwoman as well. 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. Marino’s office and thank him 202-225-3731.

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

 

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TomMarino

At the Farm Bill hearing during the Pa. Farm Show in Harrisburg in January, Rep. Tom Marino was part of the panel. While he does not serve on the Ag Committee, he has attended this hearing the past two years it was held. He spoke from the heart and admitted he is not the most well-versed in agriculture and since he does not sit on the ag committee, has less influence on these things, but he said he comes home late at night from Washington and sees the lights on at the dairy farms in his district, sees the activity going on on the farms, sees what people put into producing a quality product and hears from constituents on these issues of school milk — brought up at Farm Show hearings also. He said at the 2018 hearing that he is tired of seeing things that don’t make sense and he said if the government is involved in these things, they better be getting it right or they should not be involved. Last week, Rep. Marino introduced The Whole Milk Act, H.R. 5640, to bring whole milk back to the National School Lunch Program. Photo by Sherry Bunting

 

Reinventing milk… promotion

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Reprinted from FARMSHINE, April 8, 2016

Fewer Americans eat breakfast today, adding to the milk consumption woes created when families stopped eating sit-down dinners, for the most part. Both were the staples of commodity fluid milk consumption that have been diminishing over the past two generations and four decades to where we are today.

Forecasters say it will only get worse. They are projecting continued declines in ‘white milk’ consumption while consumption of milk alternatives is predicted to increase dramatically through 2021.

A major reason is that the majority of urban consumers — up to 90% — do not view white milk (aka Vit. D whole milk) as a protein drink, when clearly it is the original, the natural protein drink.

But what is DMI working on? Alternatives. Checkoff dollars continue to flow through DMI to alternatives milks. Yes they are dairy products, but they are further processed, as in the case of Fairlife, which is ultrafiltered, for example.

I have had dairymen involved in these boards excitedly tell me: “We finally have a product consumers want!”

If they are referring to Fairlife, that may be true for consumers we’ve lost to Muscle Milk (which does contain some whey) or Almondmilk (which is the equivalent of eating an almond and chasing it with water full of thickeners, sugar and chemically added calcium and vitamins.)

But I find myself confused. Isn’t dairy promotion supposed to promote what contributes most to the dairy farmer’s milk check? I mean, it is the dairy farmer’s money, is it not?

As long as the Federal Order milk pricing scheme puts the value on Class I utilization, then the milk checkoff organizations should be most diligently promoting regular, straight-from-the-cow (pasteurized of course and maybe even flavored) milk as the healthy high-protein beverage it is, naturally, because I’m sorry to tell you friends, consumers just don’t know this information.

Milk: The protein drink that’s right under our noses and costs a lot less than fancy packaged and advertised alternatives — some of them complete frauds in that they are not even milk!

Why is it that milk alternatives can claim all sorts of things, but milk is not even allowed to advertise itself as 96.5% fat free! Why can’t the milk bottle say “8 times more protein than almondmilk per 8 oz serving!”

Why can’t it say: “Want Protein? Get Milk!”

Do we really need Coca Cola to revolutionize our branding? Or should dairy farmers take the bull by the horns and demand great packaging, savvy catch phrases, eye-catching point-of-purchase education, head-on comparisons to the fraudulent beverages that so wish to be milk that they call themselves milk.

No, USDA does not allow dairy farmers to promote their product comparatively with those other commodities that have stolen some of their market share by stealing the name milk. You dairy folks must play nice of course!

That’s hardly fair since dairymilk is losing market share. If you can’t defend your own market turf with your own collected monies, then what’s the point of collecting the money? All of these joint partnerships to sell cheese on pizza and mixes through frappes at McDonalds might move some more milk, but the value is in the Class I fluid milk, so unless we’re going to change the complicated milk pricing formula and glean more value and a guaranteed minimum for the manufacturing milk via its products, then we might just as well use the money to buy-back our own fluid milk and donate it to the poor to keep the demand for Class I tight vs. the supply.

Or put the money in a kitty to develop better fluid milk labels. Make them cool and splashy with P-R-O-T-E-I-N in large letters.

Milk: The original protein drink!

Milk: Protein drink of champions!

Milk: Why pay more? We’ve got what your looking for!

I could go on all day.

If the growth of our Class I milk markets rely on the USDA school lunch program, then we’re sunk and USDA is once again to blame for this dismal failure by tying the hands of school districts who want to serve 2% and whole milk.

Analysts say that the strong growth in the milk markets of emerging countries like Chile is attributed to their school milk programs.

In the U.S., milk is stigmatized as a “commodity.” We sure don’t help that with plain white bottles and lackluster graphics.

Milk alternatives such as soymilk and almondmilk (aren’t they so tricky in creating their own new words by paring their commodity to the word milk as one word) are increasingly viewed as ‘fashionable drinks’ and a more health-conscious choice compared to white milk.

Let’s reverse this trend by making dairymilk fashionable again!

Let’s call it dairymilk (a tricky combined word!) and come up with a new standard of identity that allows us to say 96.5% fat free instead of “whole.”

Maybe even come up with a standard for protein and say to call it dairymilk it must meet that protein standard and then colorfully package and protein-promote the heck out of it.

Analysts say that consumers like innovation in their drinks and they are finding “innovation” in the “newer milk categories” which are so much more attractive than the “mature” white milk category.

Okay then, let’s give the consumer what they want. Great tasting real milk but let’s reinvent the packaging and the promotion and the name… not the beverage itself.

Just think how much money we can save on fancy equipment if all we have to do is reinvent the promotion of milk, not reinvent the milk itself. After all, it is nature’s most nearly perfect food.

Maybe instead of fighting each other for Class I sales by moving milk all over to get the best price and utilization (see chart on page 13 showing that picture for the beleagured Northeast Order)… we should be fighting, instead, together, to save our beverage from its continued depreciation at the hands of internal politics, external politics, USDA rules upon rules, fraudulent not-milk-milks whom regulators ignore and even patronize, and other assorted casts of characters.

NUTRITION POLITICS: Kids and cattle caught in the crossfire

GROWING THE LAND: Nutrition Politics: Let them eat cake!

April 2, 2015 Hudson Valley Register-Star

Seems like an April Fools’ joke, but I am sorry to say it is not. Like the ill-fated Marie
Antoinette in her final words, the federal government lacks understanding for the nutritional realities of the masses as it turns the simple act of providing a nutritious lunch to schoolchildren into an exercise in frustration.

Kids buy Twinkies instead of lunch. Or they pack. Some go hungry.

For 40-plus years, the concept of a “heart healthy diet” has been unchallenged even though it was implemented based on a set of hypotheses created from epidemiological studies on middle-aged men. No study of impacts on women and children. No clinical trials on anyone.

As noted in this column on Jan. 27, schoolchildren have been eating the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet since the mid-1990s as the fat percentage was tightly controlled even though the sugar was not. Then, the government cut the calorie totals realizing the fat that was removed was replaced with sugar to meet the calorie requirements of a growing child.

What have we to show for it? Rising levels of obesity and diabetes, particularly among children.

It is about to get worse, but there is still time to be heard. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee — charged with making recommendations every five years — has now
stepped beyond its nutritional realm to consider the “environmental impacts” of foods.

From the frying pan into the fire we go.1538850_10203867018139998_98482634260761802_n

In this column on Feb. 8, we looked at the National School Lunch Program and the Dietary Guidelines just as the five-year Advisory Committee submitted its Advisory Report to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Committee states that “The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the federal government of current scientific evidence on topics related to diet, nutrition and health. It provides the federal government with a foundation for developing national nutrition policy.”

However, the Advisory Report constructs and reinforces further reductions in its guidelines on the consumption of red meat and whole dairy fat such as butter and whole milk by using these so-called “sustainability factors.”

This area of science is even more subjective than the past four decades of nutrition science have proved to be. Just when the truth is coming out that decades of nutrition policies are based on hypotheses steering unwary consumers away from healthy fat and into the arms of carbohydrates, suddenly “sustainability” emerges to perpetuate the lie.

New York Times bestseller “The Big Fat Surprise” delves deeply into this subject. Author Nina Teicholz, an investigative food reporter, compiled nine years of research covering thousands of studies and many interviews with nutrition scientists to discover this April Fools’ joke has already had too-long a run and with unintended consequences for Americans.

As noted by Anne Burkholder, a rancher and blogger (Feedyard Foodie), who wrotGL 1847 (1)
e after reading Teicholz’s book: “The diet-heart hypothesis (coined by a biologist Ancel Keys in the early 1960s) proclaimed that a low fat and high carbohydrate diet provided the basis for good health. Although not proved through clinical trials, the hypothesis gained support from the federal government and provided the basis for mainstream dietary advice during the ensuing decades.

“…The culture of the American diet has shifted dramatically. According to USDA, the consumption of grains (41 percent), vegetables (23 percent) and fruits (13 percent) rose significantly from 1970-2005 while red meat (-22 percent), milk (-33 percent) and eggs (-17 percent) fell dramatically. Overall carbohydrate intake for Americans rose with low fat starches and vegetable oil took the place of animal protein and fat in the diet. Animal protein lovers shifted from beef to chicken and many traded whole fat dairy for skim milk and margarine thereby forsaking nutrition density for lower saturated fat options,” Burkholder writes. “All of this occurred during a time in the United States when obesity rates more than doubled (15-32 percent), the prevalence of heart failure, cancer and stroke all increased and the rate of diabetes increased from less than 1 percent to 11 percent.”

Here are just some of the conclusions Teicholz highlights in “The Big Fat Surprise” after nearly a decade of research:

1. Causal associations between red meat consumption and heart disease are minimal.

2. The HDL (good cholesterol) is increased by the saturated fat found in animal protein.

3. Animal fat is nutrient dense, packing protein, energy and essential vitamins and minerals — plus helping the vitamins and minerals of other foods eaten together to be better absorbed by the human body.

4. There are no health studies to learn the effect on health of liquid vegetable oils. We do know that the process of solidifying vegetable oils creates the very unhealthy transfats. Butter and red meat do not contain these transfats.

5. Insulin levels are elevated by constant carb consumption, not by animal fat and protein. Furthermore, as insulin levels are raised, the body is less able to digest its own stored fat created by — you guessed it — carbs!

Our children have been and will apparently continue to be test subjects for nutrition GL kids-cowspolitics. The simple act of providing a nutritious school lunch will become even more
complicated if the Advisory Report is accepted and used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture secretaries in the food programs they administer.

Published in the Federal Register (Vol. 80, No. 35) on Feb. 23, the public comment period was recently extended to May 8. After that, the secretaries will jointly release the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015.

A quick perusal of comments already logged shows that two parts of the Report are garnering attention:

1. There is an overwhelming support for the recommendation to reduce the amount of added sugar in the diet. My only question is: What took them so long?

2. There is an overwhelming lack of support for the recommendation to reduce even more the role of saturated fats — red meat and whole dairy fat — in the diet.

Some children may forego the school lunch and pack a nutritious replacement. But what about the child in poverty? Their options are limited to taking what the federal government dishes out, literally.

To comment on proposed Dietary Guidelines by May 8, visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/. It is easy to do electronically.


GROWING THE LAND: Kids and cattle caught in the crossfire 

Feb. 8, 2015  Hudson Valley Register Star

Kids and cattle are caught in the crossfire of nutrition politics, and it may get worse. GL 0263Two weeks ago we talked about the changes over the years in the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans and their direct influence on the National School Lunch Prog
ram. This week we look at how the simple act of providing a nutritious school lunch could become even more complicated.

What I have gleaned from reader comments is a high level of frustration about the current status of the National School Lunch Program limiting the caloric intake and food choices of growing children. Now, the next twist in the nutrition-noodle may not even be nutrition-based.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the deciding agency for new “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” expected to be released soon. The HHS Secretaries are deliberating the recent report from their Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which held meetings for months.

When the new Guidelines are officially published in the Federal Register, a second round of comments will open. I’ll let you know when and how to comment when the time comes.

For now, let’s look at a few concerns with the committee’s report.

1) It is worth noting that back when we had a Food Pyramid, physical exercise was Boilermaker6929visually highlighted, where today it is notably absent from the MyPlate diagram.

2) More troubling this time around, is the fact that the committee is not just focusing on new information about healthful eating, they have incorporated so-called “sustainability”
factors or environmental impacts of various foods — namely lean meats. This opens a whole can of worms that — quite frankly — have nothing to do with nutrition!

3) Furthermore, some of the science the committee used to come up with thewWill-Feed3983 idea of eliminating lean meat from its so-called “healthy eating pattern” is quite controversial and involves a United Nations study that has since been refuted.That study had suggested meat production contributes more to climate change than transportation.

Scientists have come forward in droves with counter-studies showing the greatly reduced carbon footprint of agriculture, particularly animal agriculture. The whole lifecycle of beef and dairy cattle needs to be considered when formulating environmental impacts.

While the dietary gurus in Washington debate the merits of meat and whole-fat milk, let’s look at this term “sustainability” and what dairy and livestock producers actually care about and accomplish for their land, animals — and us!

Regarding potential replacement of a “healthy eating pattern” in favor of a “sustainable eating pattern,” there are several concerns.

1. If red meat and full-fat dairy are not considered a component in a healthy eating pattern, students will increasingly see this nutrient dense protein source removed from their diets and replaced with foods that are less nutrient dense.

2. Since these guidelines affect the most nutritionally at-risk children through their effects on the school lunch program, WIC and food stamps, the impact of the dietary guidelines would fall mostly on those children who are already on the hunger-side of the nutrition equation.

3. How can the committee recommend a “sustainable dietary pattern” when mothers, doctors, scientists, and all manner of experts can’t even agree on what “sustainable” actually means? Let’s stick to nutrition. Defining that is a tall-enough order.

Scientist, cancer survivor and new mom Dr. Jude Capper covers this topic best. She points out that, “With the world population officially hitting 7 billion people earlier this year and projected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, farmers and ranchers must continue to find ways to sustainably feed a growing world population using fewer natural resources.”

She notes the many improvements to the way cattle are raised and fed in the United States between 1977 and 2007 that have yielded 13 percent more total beef from 30 percent fewer animals. More beef from fewer animals maximizes resources like land and water while providing essential nutrients for the human diet. U.S. cattlemen raise 20 percent of the world’s beef with 7 percent of the world’s cattle.

Capper’s research in the Journal of Animal Science shows that beef’s environmental footprint is shrinking. Each pound of beef raised in 2007 (compared to 1977) used 19 percent less feed; 33 percent less land; 12 percent less water; and 9 percent less fossil fuel energy. Significant gains have been made in the seven years since the data was collected for this report.IMG_2657

What is discouraging to cattle producers — be they beef or dairy — is the lack of understanding for how cattle are raised and fed. They utilize feedstuffs we humans cannot digest and turn that into meat and milk, which are nutrient-dense sources of proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Some of their lifecycle is spent on grass or eating a mostly grass / hay diet and some of their lifecycle is spent eating a more concentrated diet at certain stages. Feedlot beef wky3327

cattle start out as calves on grass. Even in the feedlot, today’s rations — especially in the east and near food processing centers — utilize bakery waste, over cooked potato chips, wilted produce and the like that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Incorporated into cattle diets along with traditional feedstuffs, these foods provide protein and energy for the animals without sole reliance on corn. In addition, when corn is fed, the whole plant is used.

Farmers are thrifty. They don’t like to waste a thing. They understand the balance of working with nature because it is not just the vocation, but also the very life they have chosen working with their animals and the land.

I can’t think of any other reason why someone would work this hard and put their entire livelihood and all of their capital at risk to the swings of the marketplace other than they are passionate about producing food and using science and ingenuity to work with

Mother Nature in preserving a sustainable balance for all of God’s creatures — the 2-legged and the 4-legged.

Send me your questions and look for part three when the official new guidelines are posted in the Federal Register for public comment. Email agrite@ptd.net.10256404_10204082794934283_4627952695489572277_o


GROWING THE LAND: How did school lunch get so complicated        

Jan. 27, 2015 Hudson Valley Register-Star

Are you satisfied with your school lunches? Do your children eat them? Do they come home so hungry they binge out of the snack drawer?

The National School Lunch Program and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are lightning rods for the latest nutritional ideas — none of which seem to be working particularly well because we’ve gotten so far from the basics, and yet both childhood hunger and childhood obesity are on the rise.

Now it seems there will be another twist in the nutrition-noodle. Recent food studies and “The Big Fat Surprise,” a best seller by Nina Teicholz, reveals the truth about the healthfulness of natural fats in whole milk, butter, beef, ice cream, etc. Teicholz was profiled on “Live! with Kelly and Michael” last week, where she described the “nasty nutrition politics” that continually shape these programs.

In response to these animal-protein-friendly nutritional revelations, the environmental webfeed9297nail-biters (under the influence of refuted studies) are “concerned” about what they see as the effect of dairy and beef production on climate change. According to news reports last week, these groups would like the government to take their version of the facts and tweak new-again the nutrition guidelines. This means yet another lunchroom brawl will soon be coming to a school cafeteria near you where the already burdensome and counterproductive rules for lunch menu planning have lunch ladies and foodservice directors — not to mention kids and parents — tearing their hair out.

How did we let serving a decent healthy meal to schoolchildren become so complicated? Why don’t schools take their cafeterias back? One reason is the federal government ties its financial support for literacy programs (extra teachers and tutors) in schools to the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program as monitored by — you guessed it — the federal government. Oh what a complex web we weave when all we set out to do is healthfully eat!

The government’s interest in the school lunch program got its first foothold during World War II when more women joined the workforce as part of the war effort. The emphasis at that time was to provide a hot meal with plenty of protein, calories for energy and the healthy fat necessary for brain development and satiety — a fancy word for no hunger pains during the end of the day math class!

My generation grew up with the “eat all things in moderation” mantra. Lunches were a bit repetitive, but they were good, honest meals and we ate them. We learned about the four food groups, and we ran and played and worked outside ‘til dusk.

My children’s generation grew up in the “food pyramid” days, spelling out the servings deal differently. Then, in the 1990s, the school lunch program went through a major metamorphosis that paralleled the “low fat” offerings in nearly every product category at the supermarket. What the 90s gave us was less fat and more carbs, and a lot of guilt. I would say those three things are actually ingredients for obesity.

By the late 1990s, the government came out with the nutrient standards for menu planning, and school districts across the country bought the software and began to submit their menus for approval. I was editor of a farm publication at the time and served as an elected director on a local school board. I interviewed not only our own district’s foodservice director but others as well, and I visited one of the schools that had piloted the program for USDA.

“Schoolchildren were being relegated to the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet,” explained the foodservice director who was piloting the program in 1997. The calorie thresholds were unchanged, but the government began regulating the percentage of those calories that could come from fat. There were no regulations yet for sugar or carbohydrates. And yes, as always, the goal was to get kids to eat more veggies and fruits and fiber. We might take a lesson from France in that department. They require lunches to be made from fresh ingredients, but they aren’t afraid to deep-fry some broccoli or soak a healthy vegetable dish in yummy cheese — real, of course.

The new fat rules forced foodservice folks to put imitation cheese product on their once delicious pizza. Ground turkey replaced beef in spaghetti and tacos. Rolls were served without butter. All milk was reduced to nonfat or 1 percent so the amount of chocolate milk consumed increased. (Whole milk is much more flavorful than nonfat, and it is just 3.25 to 3.5 percent fat!

As fat was reduced, so were calories and flavor. To get back up to the number of calories required, “we just served a bigger brownie, for example,” that foodservice director recounted. Of course, they used applesauce to replace the shortening in making such desserts. But still, no requirement on sugar and carbs.

“Two elements give food flavor: fats and sugars. When you pull one out, chances are the other is added,” the wise foodservice director observed. Whether natural or added, sugars and fats provide flavor, but what most people don’t think about is: The fat in real foods — such as beef and butter and cheese — is accompanied by a nutrient dense protein source that naturally supplies vitamins and minerals and helps kids feel satiated, not hungry or hyper, so they can concentrate and learn. Healthy fats are known to be good for brain development.

Fast forward to the decade of the 2010’s. More tinkering! The food pyramid became the plate showing portions of different food types, and we are now in a time when school menus are regulated in the number of calories that can be served using arbitrary, across the board calculations.

Caught in the crossfire are kids and cattle. We’ll continue this topic in the next edition of “Growing the Land,” so send me your questions about nutrition standards, new information on healthy fats, school lunch programs, and the real-deal on the carbon footprint and environmental contributions of today’s dairy and beef cattle. Email agrite@ptd.net.

Sweet Beginnings

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I had this idea many months ago to start a blog about the people, places an issues relating to the food we eat, and since I’ve spent my life as an ag journalist and avid photographer, the name of my blog is “foodography.”

I had the idea, the name, the framework, but it seems I’ve been too busy to jumpstart it. Today, I’ve been prodded to do my first post because of the confusion I see lately about milk. So I’m kicking off my foodographic blog with an opportunity to shed light on some of the controversey about a dairy / sweetener petition that has been talked about in social media and mainstream media the past few weeks.

Below are my dozen points of light… Please read and then use the link at the end to go to the FDA website to read the petition and to tell FDA what you think about non-caloric sweeteners in flavored dairy products and while you are at it, ask FDA to talk to USDA about its school lunch rules. Chocolate milk – and whole milk for that matter – is not the cause of childhood obesity.

1) I am an advocate for real foods, whole foods. The less artificial, the better, in my opinion. But I am also a busy mom who raised three kids and worked full time. I know what it’s like to be going 100 directions and still strive to put a healthy meal on the table. Today, I have grandchildren. I care what they eat and drink. Whole milk is, was, and forever shall be a staple in our house, period.

2) THE MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-HOME POINT: ***Dairy farmers work very hard 24/7/365 to ensure they are producing wholesome high quality milk, but by the time it reaches the store or the school cafeteria, the lowfat and nonfat varieties are not the flavorful creamy product that came from the cow! Farmers I talk to are frustrated by this and they are frustrated even further when they see headlines about the mere suggestion that certain sweeteners with a bad reputation could be put into their product, even though said non-calorie sweeteners would only relate to flavorings like chocolate, strawberry or fruit, and not to the milk itself! I don’t blame them for being mad. They want to sell unfooled-around-with milk, the best kind of course!

3) I do not approve of using aspartame in drinks intended for children. However, I would allow my kids (grandkids) to use stevia. Both stevia and the maligned aspartame are considered non-nutritive (which means no-calorie) sweetener alternatives to traditional caloric or nutritive sweeteners called sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

4) Current FDA standards of identity for milk and certain other dairy products do not allow the use of non-nutritive (no-calorie) sweeteners and this includes the flavorings that are added to make variations of these products (i.e. chocolate milk, which to me is no different than a marinated steak vs. a plain steak. One is pure from the animal and the other has a recipe of flavoring added!)

5) Most consumers – and even pediatricians – do not realize that whole milk is less than 4% fat to begin with. People think it’s 10%, even doctors are so misinformed.

6) Furthermore, the USDA school lunch program forces schools to reduce the lunch fat percentage to the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet so the milk that is offered is nonfat or 1% in order to meet the total lunch requirement. This is by REGULATION, even though current studies show kids who drink whole milk are leaner and that whole milk is better for the brain.

7) Because nonfat white milk is essentially tasteless, kids opt for the chocolate nonfat in the school lunch line. Now we have another wrinkle in the milk story: Starting in 2013, the USDA school lunch program is mandating reductions in sugar content of school lunches, so schools are forced to give up flavored milk if they can’t make their menus work. The full impact of this rule is YET TO COME.

8) #7 above is essentially one of the reasons the 2009 petition filed by IDFA and NMPF on non-nutritive sweeteners was revived four years later in 2013 and why FDA is now looking at it. It’s because the sugar rules will affect FLAVORED yogurt and FLAVORED milk servings in the school lunch program. Furthermore, older adults may want to limit their sugar intake and yet they may love a strawberry or chocolate milk. They can buy a flavoring at the store that is made with a non-nutritive sweetener and add it to their real milk at home, and that’s okay, but a bottler can’t do that right now and still call it “milk.” They have to change the name to chocolate or strawberry “milkshake” or “drink” or find a different name. Or in the case of a flavored yogurt sweetened with non-nutritive (no calorie) alternative they have to call it something else, like “smoothie”. 

9) In the case of the flavored milk beverage, this failure to observe standard of identity on the flavoring not the actual milk, puts the beverage in another “class” other than “class 1” for the purpose of milk pricing back to the farm.

10) The root problem is that whole-fat milk gets an unfair bad rap and should be promoted for its health benefits and surprising lack of fat less than 4%. The industry needs to stand firm and battle the increasing levels of misinformation. Chocolate milk sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap also, and should be touted for its perfect carb/protein ratio. The industry is doing that through promotion, but it needs to do more.

11) Sadly, the USDA school lunch regulators don’t care about the truth. They don’t care about whole foods or real foods. They are numbers people, bean counters, who want to see menus that add, subtract and multiply to the right mathematical answer! Meanwhile, Milk bottlers and dairy foods makers are trying to deal with these realities and to compete with other beverages and look-alikes that don’t have these standard-of-identity restrictions. For that matter, if milk has a standard-of-identity, how can crushed almond or soybean juice be called ‘milk’? But that’s another blog post!

12) For sure, Chocolate milk is not the cause of childhood obesity in this country. For that matter, kids could drink whole chocolate milk til the cows come home and it’s not the cause of childhood obesity. But, by the same token, the controversial sweetener petition is not affecting milk or yogurt or sour cream or any of the 17 products itself. It is specifically directed to the “use of any safe and suitable sweetener in the optional characterizing flavoring ingredients period.

13) This sweetener argument is sort of like arguing about what can be put in a marinade for a london broil if you want to call it beef at the grocery store. (i.e. London broil = real and pure beef) and the ingredients in a marinated London broil (beef plus whatever is in the marinade).  I read the label for those too, don’t you?

14) Read the petition here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012

15) Tell FDA what you think here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2009-P-0147-0012