USDA announces updates to school meal nutrition standards to begin in 2022-2023 school year

These transitional feeding standards — due to be implemented in the next two school years — are intended to give “schools time to transition from current pandemic operations to more nutritious meals,” according to the USDA. These standards include updates for milk, whole grains, and sodium requirements for school meals.
It comes as schools across the country struggle to provide meals to students amid soaring food prices and disruptions in the supply chain.

The USDA cited the transitional nature of these new nutritional requirements as a way for schools to “gradually transition from exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic to regular program operations and meal standards that are in line with the latest nutritional science,” the agency said in a press release. New release.

The new standards include: Schools may offer low-fat (1%) flavored milk as well as other skimmed and reduced-fat milk options; At least 80% of the cereal in your breakfast and lunch meals per week should be rich in whole grains; Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, there will be a 10% reduction in the weekly sodium limit for school lunches only. The weekly sodium limit for the 2022-2023 school year will remain at current levels, according to the USDA.

“Nutritious school meals give America’s children the foundation for healthy, successful lives,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Friday. “We applaud the heroic efforts of schools during the challenges of this pandemic to continue serving children with the most nutritious meals possible. The standards we are setting for the next two school years will help schools move into a future that builds on the tremendous strides they have improved school meal nutrition over the past decade.”

In Friday’s announcement, the USDA also said that more long-term nutrition standards are expected for the 2024-2025 school year. The USDA previously made major updates to its school feeding standards in 2012.

While schools have been “largely successful” in implementing the 2012 standards, the agency noted on Friday, administrative delays and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to disruptions as “some schools may not be prepared to fully meet standards for milk, whole grains and sodium in this the time.”

Stacey Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the USDA, described the gradual transitional standards as “realistic” as schools recover from the pandemic and are also working to strengthen child nutrition programs.

“We know it’s not easy to change eating habits, but future gains even from incremental changes are extraordinary, and schools have shown that success is possible,” Dean told reporters by phone.

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