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USDA Proposes Updates to School Nutrition Standards to Improve Kids’ Nutrition

The Department of Agriculture is proposing updates to school nutrition standards in a few key areas in order to give kids the right balance of nutrients for healthy and appealing meals.[0] This is in response to recent findings that most kids are consuming too much sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, and not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, leading to a rise in diet-related diseases.[1]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, “Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future.”[2]

The plan aims to limit added sugars in certain high-sugar products by fall 2027 and reduce sodium by 30 percent by fall 2029.[3] It also seeks to increase whole grains, while still allowing the occasional non-whole grain product, and strengthen Buy American requirements in school meals.[4] In addition, schools serving primarily American Indian and Alaska Native children would be able to serve culturally appropriate foods, such as wild game meat, fish, seafood, marine mammals, plants, and berries.[1]

The department is also offering grants of up to $150,000 for small and rural school districts to help them improve school meal nutritional quality and $17 million to Action for Healthy Kids to identify, celebrate, and showcase schools implementing successful and creative strategies for serving healthy, appealing meals.[2]

Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean said, “USDA understands that thoughtful implementation of the updates will take time and teamwork. We’re proposing these changes now to build in plenty of time for planning and collaboration with all of our school nutrition partners. USDA will continue to do all we can to support our partners’ success, because nothing could be more important than giving kids the best chance at a healthy future. However, we cannot do this alone. Implementing the final school nutrition standards will require the support of schools and state agencies.”[5]

The School Nutrition Association has voiced support of the plan, but added that school meal programs are still facing challenges finding whole-grain, low-sodium and low-fat options to meet the current standards.[6]

0. “New USDA rules seek to limit sugar in school meals for first time” Washington Examiner, 4 Feb. 2023,

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

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

3. “New rules would limit sugar in school meals for first time” msnNOW, 3 Feb. 2023,

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

5. “USDA proposes limits to added sugars and sodium in school meals” CBS News, 4 Feb. 2023,

6. “New school meal nutrition standards would limit sugar, sodium” NPR, 3 Feb. 2023,

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