Implementing The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act: Improving Milk and Water Requirements in Schools

Presented by Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

USDA  guidance on improving water and milk requirements to states on:

  1. Making water available during school lunch, and
  2. Offering a variety of milk consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Summary of Changes to the Water Availability during School Lunch Meal Service

  • Free water must be made readily available to children during lunch.
  • Schools are given flexibility in how to implement this change. The memo reads: “For example, schools can offer water pitchers and cups on lunch tables, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water.”
  • Water is not considered part of the reimbursable meal. However, reasonable costs from providing water will be considered an allowable cost to the nonprofit food service account.

Summary of Changes to the Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk

  • Schools should offer children at least two choices of fluid milk that are either fat-free or low-fat (1 percent).
  • Schools may continue to offer plain or flavored milk as long as they are fat-free or low-fat until the new proposed school meals rule goes into effect.


Even though local school districts have until the start of next school year (SY 2011-2012) to comply with the requirements, school officials and food service directors should start to make these changes now. Implementing these changes quickly is key to making the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act a success.

Advocates can support schools in this process by:

  • Working with school wellness councils to raise awareness of these new requirements and the timetable for making changes
  • Collaborating with community stakeholders and the media to build awareness and excitement about these nutritional improvements
  • Supporting  education and dialogue for school staff, students, and parents promoting the acceptance and understanding of the health benefits of lower-fat milk and the availability of water
  • Connecting schools with best practice information on education materials, curriculum, and advice on lessons learned from the implementation of similar requirements


Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian ( who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years.