Special milk program: How it works?

In 1955, the initiative of the Special Milk Program (SMP) was launched to increase the consumption of milk by kids. The institutions that participated in this program were those that were not a part of other meal programs run by the government, such as the National School Lunch Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Services Program, or School Breakfast Program. The Special Milk Program was also included in the Child Nutrition Act in 1966.

This program provides children in childcare institutions, schools, and other places with nutritious milk. Through the Special Milk Program, educational institutions are reimbursed by the state for the served amount of milk. According to a survey conducted in 2011, 782 summer camps, 527 non-residential institutions, and 3,848 residential institutions and schools participated in this program. Schools that participated in the School Breakfast Programs or the National School Lunch Program can also participate in SMP for providing pre or kindergarteners with access to nourishing milk.

Federally, this program is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service. On the other hand, the state educational agencies administer the Special Milk Program at the national level, by signing agreements with the food authorities of schools.

milk program

How the special milk program works?

For enrolling in SMP, a school must put forward an application and serve kids who are not benefitting from other school meal programs. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides reimbursement for every half-pint of served milk to the participating institutions and schools. The Special Milk Program is operated by the participating institutions for non-profit purposes. These institutions agree to utilize the reimbursement provided by the federal government for providing milk at subsidized rates to all kids.

The nutritional requirements for the special milk program

The participating institutions and schools should select pasteurized fluid kinds of flavored or unflavored whole milk, skim milk, cultured buttermilk and low-fat milk that meet local and state standards. The served milk must include the specified levels of Vitamin D and Vitamin A, as mentioned by the Food and Drug Administration.

Which children are qualified for the SMP?

When free milk is offered under the Special Milk Program by the officials from local schools, then any child belonging to a low-income family who meets the eligibility income guidelines can avail this opportunity. The family of each child must apply for the eligibility of acquiring free milk on an annual basis. Children participating in pre-kindergarten or school programs can get free milk through SMP, irrespective of their Free and Reduced Meal Service (FARMS) status.

The cost of the special milk program

The total cost of the Special Milk Program in 2008 was $14.8 million. In the previous years, the program cost a lot more but had a limited impact. For instance, the Special Milk Program cost $15.4 million in 2000, $19.1 million in 1990, $145.2 million in 1980 and $101.2 million in 1970.

Different methods used to charge for milk

Two different ways are used by the participating schools and educational institutions for charging the enrolled kids with the cost of served milk. The first option is the non-pricing program. In this method, the price for served milk is incorporated in the camping or tuition fee. This way, all children automatically acquire milk and don’t have to pay additional costs other than what they are already paying.

The other option is the pricing program. In this program, purchasing milk is optional because the children are charged for it separately. The serving agency might also choose to keep providing milk free of cost to such children who are eligible according to income standards and particular family size.

What records are kept by the agency?

The state educational agencies keep all the records related to the Special Milk Program, to make sure that all state and federal rules are being followed. A few of the documented records by the agencies are the number of milk servings each day, by category of served milk (purchased milk or free milk), and the sites where the program is being carried out.

The records of all applications submitted by families for acquiring free milk are also kept by the state agencies. These agencies also record the types and amounts of utilized milk. Records of expenditures, received contributions, and income are also noted down. The Special Milk Program of each agency is then reviewed by the CDE. An annual audit also takes place of those state agencies that receive approximately $500,000 worth of federal funds every year from all sources.

The advantages of participation in the special milk program

This program has proved to be a great initiative at all levels. The Special Milk Program serves children a healthy beverage rich in Vitamin A and D along with calcium. Such a nutritional drink is necessary for a child’s overall development and for making his/her teeth and bones strong.

On the other hand, the Special Milk Program provides parents a convenient and low-cost method of making sure that their kids receive a delicious and healthy drink even away from their houses. The schools also benefit from this tremendous opportunity. By providing students with healthy milk, they assist and encourage them to take a step further towards improving their academic performance. After all, a healthy child is more capable of studying hard than a malnourished kid.

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