USDA announces new rules for school lunches

LOUSEVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture released new guidelines Friday that could affect what kids eat at school.

Updates to school feeding standards are scheduled to take effect over the next two academic years.

There has been a widespread effort to make school meals healthier for children which is important for many who may not be getting the nutrition they need at home.

“School is definitely a place to educate kids and get them to try things out and make them more open, where kids go to learn every day,” said dietitian Alexis Tindall.

Tyndall said that a balanced diet is critical to growth and development and to help prevent chronic disease.

“It could be anything from lowering blood pressure to lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, the cardiovascular disease we’re seeing now as well,” Tindall said.

The new standards include schools offering 1 percent flavored milk as well as other fat-free and low-fat options.

At least 80 percent of the cereal in your breakfast and lunch meals per week should be rich in whole grains. There will be a 10 percent reduction in the weekly sodium limit for school lunches, too.

“There will be more sodium in processed foods, snack foods, and desserts, so naturally, when we try to focus on reducing that, that means kids are getting less processed foods and more whole foods,” Tindall said.

The updates come as schools continue to struggle with disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as supply chain issues.

However, the USDA said schools could transition to the new standards gradually.

The USDA also said that more long-term nutrition standards are expected for the 2024-2025 school year.

The last time major updates were made to school feeding standards was in 2012.

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