Updates Announced to School Nutrition Standards

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Today, the United States Department of Agricultural issued a press release regarding the revamping of school lunches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced updates to the school nutrition standards that give schools a clear path forward as they build back better from the pandemic. These actions provide support for the dedicated school meal program operators who provide critical nutrition to millions of children every school day.

Changes will include; low-fat chocolate milk instead of only non-fat, whole-grain offerings, and less severe salt limits.

Schools will be allowed to offer low-fat milk along with nonfat and other low-fat options. Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, at least 80% of breakfasts and lunches must be whole-grain rich, lunches must have a 10% lower sodium rate weekly than they do currently.

The USDA is working to develop long-term nutrition standards that will work for schools, families, and industry alike. USDA expects to publish a proposed rule on the updated standards in fall 2022.

Child Nutrition Programs: Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium – establishes the following requirements beginning SY 2022-2023:

  • Milk: Schools and child care providers serving participants ages six and older may offer flavored low-fat (1%) milk in addition to nonfat flavored milk and nonfat or low-fat unflavored milk;
  • Whole Grains: At least 80% of the grains served in school lunch and breakfast each week must be whole grain-rich; and
  • Sodium: The weekly sodium limit for school lunch and breakfast will remain at the current level in School Year 2022-2023. For school lunch only, there will be a 10% decrease in the limit in School Year 2023-2024.
  • This aligns with the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s recently released guidance that establishes voluntary sodium reduction targets for processed, packaged, and prepared foods in the U.S.
"Nutritious school meals give America's children the foundation for successful, healthy lives," "We applaud schools' heroic efforts throughout the challenges of this pandemic to continue serving kids the most nutritious meals possible. The standards we're putting in place for the next two school years will help schools transition to a future that builds on the tremendous strides they've made improving school meal nutrition over the past decade," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement Friday.

This comes as schools across the country have struggled to serve students meals amid a spike in food prices, Covid 19 restrictions, and supply chain disruptions.

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