WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman, along with colleagues Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), today introduced the Addressing Dietary Distress in the Stomachs of Our Youth (ADD SOY) Act. This bipartisan, bicameral bill would grant schools more flexibility to serve beverages that are nutritionally-equivalent to dairy milk for students. Congressman Troy Carter (D-LA) and Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced the House companion legislation.

“We need to be doing whatever it takes to make sure our kids are fed, including eliminating red tape in our nutrition-assistance programs to expand students’ access to more options. It is totally unacceptable that there are 30 million food insecure children in our country while a lack of milk alternatives creates $300 million of food waste a year,” said Senator Fetterman. “This bipartisan bill will create more equitable nutrition options to keep our kids happy and healthy.”

“The majority of children of color are lactose intolerant, and yet our school lunch program makes it difficult to access nutritious, non-dairy beverages,” said Senator Booker. “We must ensure that all children have access to nutrient-rich drink options that do not make them sick. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will bring greater equity to the lunchroom, by giving students the option to choose a nutritious milk substitute that meets their dietary needs.”

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has long required that all kids have milk on their trays for the school to be reimbursed for the meal, whether the milk is suited for them or not. Based on documented rates of lactose intolerance among different ethnic groups, nearly 16 or 17 million of the 30 million kids benefiting from the school lunch program may have some degree of lactose intolerance. If a kid wants an alternative, they need to get a note from a doctor or a parent, and even then, the school may not have a plant-based nutritious beverage at the ready for them. The ADD SOY Act addresses this by allowing the NSLP to easily serve the same dairy alternatives as other our federal nutrition-assistance programs.

Additionally, according to the USDA’s own findings, 29 percent of the cartons of milk served in our schools are thrown in the garbage unwanted and unopened. Another study found that kids discard 45 million gallons of milk each year. That unacceptable level of food waste amounts to a $300 million loss of tax dollars a year.