More American dairy farmers are pressing to have whole milk placed back on menus in the nation’s public schools.
The grass-roots effort began in earnest in September when a group of farmers and whole milk advocates launched a petition asking President Donald Trump, Congress, and other federal agencies to allow students to have the 3.5 percent milk.
As of Sunday, more than 11,500 people had signed the online petition.
“I think a lot of people still don’t know that schools can’t serve whole milk,” said Sherry Bunting, who started the petition on Change.org.
The federal government banned public schools from serving whole and 2 percent milk in 2012 as part of the Obama administration’s effort to combat childhood obesity.
Two years earlier, Congress had passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act — a sweeping bill that aimed to ensure kids got healthy meals at school.
One of the ways the legislation sought to accomplish that was by requiring public schools to comply with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Those guidelines say that children should only have 1 percent milk or fat-free milk.
Two years later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture codified that law into rules for schools participating in the National School Lunch program, and whole and 2 percent milk was removed from the menu.
Current law says that can only change if the guidelines change.
They are reviewed and updated every five years by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
An advisory committee is meeting to review the latest scientific evidence before the next set of guidelines are released in 2020.
Bunting hopes to deliver the petition to the committee in hopes it will change their minds about whole milk and 2 percent milk.
Milk sales dropped by $1.1 billion between 2017 and 2018, from $14.7 billion to $13.6 billion, according to Dairy Farmers of America.
As sales decline, more dairy farms are going out of business, and at record rates. Milk profits have been too low for most dairy farmers to earn an income since 2015.