Dairy in School Meals

Milk, cheese and yogurt contribute important and essential nutrients to the school meal programs. In fact, milk is the number one food source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in children’s diets. Additionally, studies show that consuming dairy foods can improve the overall nutritional quality of the diet, including in children and teens.

The American Dairy Association Mideast offers tools to assist Ohio and West Virginia school nutrition professionals in providing healthy and kid-friendly meals to students. These resources feature nutrient-rich milk, yogurt and cheese to ensure students get the nutrition they need and may also provide opportunities to increase your school meal program revenue.

What are some ways to ensure students are getting the nutrients they need?

School breakfast gives students a nutritious start every day, and expanding breakfast outside the cafeteria is a great way to capture those breakfast skippers from all socio-economic levels. Schools find that when they take breakfast to students, instead of expecting the student to come to the cafeteria, more students eat breakfast and perform better on tests, improve daily attendance and participate more in class. Some proven strategies include:

  • Breakfast in the Classroom — Students eat together in the classroom and breakfast is delivered by the nutrition staff, students and/or volunteers.
  • Grab ‘n’ Go Breakfast — Students pick up breakfast when they arrive at school and it is served in a variety of high-traffic areas such as the cafeteria, hall or entry ways.
  • Second Chance Breakfast — Students get breakfast during a break in the morning after first period or mid-way between breakfast and lunch, similar to Grab ‘n Go.

How can a school ensure non-milk drinkers get the nutrients they otherwise might not receive?

Incorporating lowfat yogurt into school menus helps students get more calcium, vitamin D and potassium, three of the four nutrients that are lacking in children’s diets. Yogurt doesn’t have to be limited to just cups.

Yogurt-based smoothies are delicious, nutritious options for grab-and-go meals, including school breakfast and school lunch. Parfaits, smoothies, yogurt bars and yogurt-based recipes can be part of a reimbursable school meal.