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USDA Announces New Nutrition Standards for School Meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a set of more stringent nutrition standards for school meals, to be gradually implemented over the next several years.[0] The proposed new standards reflect the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as required by law, and would limit added sugars, further decrease sodium levels and emphasize products that are primarily whole grain.[1] The USDA hopes the proposed updates will ensure the school meals community and the kids they serve have the best chance for long-term success.[2]

The proposed rule would also strengthen support for local and domestic food, allowing schools to include locally grown, raised, or caught as a requirement for vendors bidding to provide food for their school meal programs.[3] USDA also suggests revising the Buy American stipulation to include a cap of 5% of total food expenses on non-American food buys.[1]

USDA is proposing that the first changes would take effect in fall 2024, and final updates would be complete by fall 2029.[1] By the fall of 2027, a restriction would be put in place to limit the amount of added sugars in school breakfasts and lunches to less than 10% of the total weekly calorie intake.[4] The standards would reduce sodium limits, but that would happen gradually over several school years to align with federal guidelines, which recommend Americans aged 14 and older limit sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day, with less for younger children.[5]

The proposed rule would also allow some fat-free and low-fat flavored milk to be served in school meals with “reasonable limits for added sugars”.[6] This is because many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Studies indicate that school lunches are the healthiest meals of the day for the majority of children, illustrating that they are a crucial aid for providing kids with the nourishment required for a successful future.

The USDA will invest $100 million in the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, which offers farm-to-school grants and grants to buy equipment.[3] Many schools have had to rebuild or update kitchens to make more nutritious meals since the 1980s, when they tore out kitchens and bought pre-packaged processed food.[3]

USDA welcomes public feedback on the proposed standards, which it will use to inform the final standards.[1] Comments can be submitted between Feb. 7, 2023 and Apr. 10, 2023.[7] For more information about submitting a public comment, please visit[1]

0. “New rule would limit sugar in school meals” Iola Register, 3 Feb. 2023,

1. “Proposed Updates to the School Nutrition Standards | Food and Nutrition Service” USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 3 Feb. 2023,

2. “USDA Clamps Down on Salt and Sugar in Proposed School Nutrition Guidelines” Education Week, 3 Feb. 2023,

3. “Proposed changes to school lunches aim to reduce sugar and sodium, but flavored milk stays” CNN, 3 Feb. 2023,

4. “Stricter school meal standards could require reformulation to lower sodium, fat and sugar”, 3 Feb. 2023,

5. “For the first time, new regulations would limit sugar in school meals” Yid Info, 3 Feb. 2023,

6. “School lunch: USDA proposes new standards with sugar limits, less sodium” Axios, 1 Feb. 2023,

7. “USDA proposes more stringent new school nutrition standards” Food Management, 3 Feb. 2023,

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