Special Milk Program

A Component of the Child Nutrition Programs

What is the Special Milk Program?

The Special Milk Program provides milk to children in schools, child care institutions and eligible camps that do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal service programs. Schools in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs may also participate in the Special Milk Program to provide milk to children in half‐day pre‐kindergarten and kindergarten programs where children do not have access to the school meal programs. The program reimburses schools and institutions for the milk they serve.

Who can participate?

Generally, public, charter, or nonprofit private schools of high school grade or under and public or nonprofit private residential child care institutions and eligible camps may participate in the Special Milk Program provided they do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal service programs, except as noted above. Participating schools and institutions receive reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each half pint of milk served. Sponsors must operate their milk programs on a non‐profit basis. They agree to use the Federal reimbursement to reduce the selling price of milk to all children. Children may buy milk or receive it free, depending on the school’s choice of program options.

What types of milk can be offered?

Schools or institutions must offer only pasteurized fluid types of fat free or low-fat (1%) milk, either flavored or unflavored. These milks must meet vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration.

How does reimbursement work?

Sponsors are reimbursed based on the half pints of milk served.The Federal reimbursement rate changes each program year. Visit the Special Milk webpage to view the most recent reimbursement rates. For students who receive their milk free, the USDA reimburses schools the net purchase price of the milk.

What are my pricing options?

Sponsors can opt to be a Nonpricing Program or a Pricing Program.
  • With a nonpricing program, the sponsor provides milk to all children at no charge or the price of milk is included in the tuition so that all children automatically receive milk.
  • Sponsors have two options within choosing a pricing program, either with or without free milk.
  • For pricing programs with free milk, the sponsor provides free milk to children who qualify in accordance with the family size and Income Eligibility Guidelines established by USDA and then charges those students that do not qualify.
  • For a pricing program without free milk, sponsors charge all students for milk regardless or income eligibility. The charge for milk is also not included in tuition.

How do children qualify for free milk?

When local school officials offer free milk under the program to low‐income children, any child from a family that meets income guidelines for free meals is eligible. Each child’s family must apply annually for free milk eligibility.


Contact your Field Specialist

Visit the IDOE Special Milk webpage.