As part of the Northeast Dairy Foods Association, Inc.’s Dairy Day celebration in the Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany, Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C-Schoharie), state Sen. George Borrello (R,C-57th District) and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski) were joined by New York dairy producers for a press conference sharing a public petition calling for whole milk to be returned as an option in schools.
Tague and Borrello are the sponsors of legislation (A.2321/S.1069) that would reinstate whole and 2% milk as beverage options in New York state schools for the first time since they were removed during the Obama administration. The initiative supports New York state dairy farms as well as provides healthy, whole-food nutrition for children in schools – a measure the lawmakers say is crucial as many children rely on school lunches and/or breakfasts as an important source of nutrition.
“Today we gathered together to proudly toast our state’s dairy producers with the biggest milk toast Albany has ever seen,” said Tague, ranking Minority member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. “While we are so proud to be here with our dairy producers, we would also like to share this experience—and all this good nutrition—with schoolchildren across our state. That’s why we need to get whole dairy back in schools.”
“For generations, milk has been known as ‘nature’s most perfect food’ because it is packed with calcium and essential nutrients that promote good health for children and people of all ages. However, more than a decade ago, misguided science was used to justify removing whole and 2% milk from school cafeterias, leaving only 1% and skim milk options. It was a mistake. Student milk consumption plummeted, and farmers were hurt by the prohibition,” said Borrello, ranking Minority member of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee. “It is time to end this failed experiment by giving students the opportunity to choose the nutritious milk of their choice and offering our state’s dairy producers a market for all their quality milk varieties. A public petition will show our fellow legislators that this is a change the public supports and wants to see happen. We are here, standing united in our conviction that it’s time to lift this senseless ban.”
Barclay said, “I want to commend Assemblyman Tague and Senator Borrello for their continued advocacy on this bill. I think most New Yorkers would be shocked to know 2% and whole milk aren’t allowed in schools. Milk provides a healthy, nutritional option for kids—especially in comparison to the junk-food and high-sugar drinks they’re constantly exposed to. It’s time to put common sense back in the cafeterias and give the state’s dairy farmers a much-needed boost.”
“As we look ahead to June Dairy Month, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association greatly appreciates this celebration of dairy as the state’s top agricultural commodity, recognizing the industry’s contribution to our economy and the long-standing commitment of our dedicated farmers and farm workers as caretakers of the animals, the environment, their communities, and each other,” said Tonya Van Slyke, Executive Director of Northeast Dairy Producers Association. “As unwavering supporters of New York’s family dairy farms, we thank Assemblyman Tague and Senator Borrello for their advocacy to reinstate whole and 2% milk options back in schools. Whole and 2% milk have unmatched nutritional value, great taste and provide the essential nutrients that children need to grow and thrive, all at an affordable price. This legislation will support New York’s dairy farms while giving children more nutritious choices in school.”
The lawmakers pointed to the recently-enacted state budget that expanded the Free School Meals program to $169 million to meet the needs of schools providing free lunches and breakfasts as evidence of how important childhood nutrition is to the state—another reason why the bill should be passed as soon as possible is so students entering school next fall will be able to benefit from the measure.
Additionally, they would like to see dairy producers benefit from the partnership. Currently, the state has a $10 million funding stream to allow schools to purchase food from local farms. Tague and Borrello said they encourage schools to buy as much food, especially dairy, as they can from local farms in the hopes this funding stream can be expanded in the future.
For now, they are hoping the public’s support for their legislation will help to encourage leaders in Albany to act on the bill. As the regularly scheduled Legislative Session is set to end Thursday, June 8, Tague and Borrello said they are ready to work with the majorities in their respective Houses to get the bill passed; however, they will not give up fighting for this initiative.
Since first introduced in 2022, the measure has overwhelming support from the public who is often surprised to find out whole and 2% milk have not been options for their children in schools since the Obama administration. Although President Obama’s goals were to curb childhood obesity, new science and research have proven low-fat and highly processed foods are more likely to contribute to weight gain and health problems than a less-processed, whole-food diet. Whole milk has been proven to be a safe, healthy, and nutritious choice, and the bill introduced by the lawmakers has been supported by parents, medical professionals and nutritionists.
WATCH THE PRESS CONFERENCE HERE: https://fb.watch/kIEcBM8PPS/