Updated April 25th, 2024 at 08:17 IST

Less Sugar, Sodium, More Veggie: New School Meal Rules in the US Aim to Toughen Nutrition Standards

As per the new rule, added sugars will be limited in school meals in the US, with small changes happening by fall 2025 and full implementation by fall 2027

Reported by: Digital Desk
Biden administration toughens school nutrition standards in the US | Image:AP

Washington: New US school meal standards announced Wednesday will limit the amount of added sugars for the first time and slightly reduce sodium content among other adjustments, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service said. 

The Joe Biden administration announced a series of steps on Wednesday to make school meals less sugary and more vegetarian in content, which is part of its move to strengthen nutrition to millions of students.


"We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, announcing major steps to promote the health of America's children through school meals.

"Like teachers, classrooms, books and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and when we raise the bar for school meals, it empowers our kids to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom," he said.


"Expanding on this major milestone, the Biden-Harris administration will continue to partner with schools, districts, states and industry to build on the extraordinary progress made to strengthen school meals," Vilsack said.

For the first time, added sugars will be limited in school meals nationwide, with small changes happening by fall 2025 and full implementation by fall 2027. The decision follows concerns from parents and teachers about excessive amounts of added sugars in some foods, which factored into this new limit.


Research shows that these added sugars are most commonly found in typical school breakfast items. Child care operators will also begin limiting added sugars in cereals and yoghurts -- rather than total sugars -- by fall 2025.

Schools can continue to offer flavoured and unflavoured milk, which provide essential nutrients that children need, such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium. However, there will be a new limit on added sugars in flavoured milk served at breakfast and lunch by fall 2025. Thirty-seven school milk processors -- representing more than 90 per cent of the school milk volume nationwide -- have already committed to providing nutritious school milk options that meet this limit on added sugars.


Schools will need to slightly reduce sodium content in their meals by fall 2027. But the current nutrition standards for whole grains will not change.

School meals will continue to emphasise fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and give kids the right balance of many nutrients for healthy, tasty meals. School nutrition professionals are local experts in their communities and will continue serving meals that their students want to eat, while also prioritising cultural and religious food preferences, the US Department of Agriculture said.


"I am thrilled that the USDA is taking action to raise nutrition standards for school meals. As a grandmother, I will move mountains to make sure my grandkids get the healthy food they need to learn and grow. I am proud to support this rule, because I know it will make a real difference for the health and well-being of families like mine," said MomsRising member Mary Beth Cochran, a differently-abled homemaker raising four grandkids in Canton, North Carolina.

"As a mom and an industry member, I think it is important to reduce sugar in school meals. To help schools, we created a sample menu showing how our products fit with the updated standards. We have also reduced added sugar by using high-quality natural ingredients that ensure our baked goods are healthy and delicious," said Laura Trujillo Bruno, president of Buena Vista Foods.


In Boston, public schools have already added sugar limits in place and reduced sodium in the menus. 


Published April 25th, 2024 at 08:16 IST