The Senate Agriculture Committee approved legislation Wednesday to enhance the quality of nutrition in federal feeding programs, including provisions that would help reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools, according to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The two dairy associations praised Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for constructing child nutrition legislation that is inclusive and bipartisan.

The measure approved Wednesday directs the Department of Agriculture to review milk consumption in both the school meal programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). It also calls for adjustments to promote greater consumption of milk as recommended by the DGA.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, said that passage of the legislation “will help reverse the trend of declining milk consumption in schools, a trend that unfortunately is in direct conflict with federal Dietary Guidelines, which say children should be drinking more milk for lifelong health. If the trend is allowed to continue, it will have serious consequences for children's health today and throughout their adult lives.”

The Senate bill also calls on USDA to address the needs of lactose-intolerant students by offering lactose-free milk through the USDA Foods Program.

The child nutrition reauthorization bill is now expected to move to the full Senate for consideration. The House has begun consideration of a similar measure but has not approved any legislation so far. Authorization for federal child nutrition programs formally expired at the end of September 2015, but the existing programs continue to operate pending approval of the reauthorization bill.