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USDA announces new school meal standards that call for less sugar, salt in students’ food

Sack lunches wait for people driving up at Fern Ridge Elementary School in Chesterfield, Mo., during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 24, 2020. New federal standards will improve the nutritious value of school meals served to students starting during the 2025-2026 school year, education officials say. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
April 24 (UPI) — Gradually improved nutrition standards for school meals will help promote the health of the nation’s schoolchildren, the United States Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the nutrition standards gradually will be updated to lessen the amount of sugar in school meals and provide more flexible menu planning beginning during the start of the 2025-2026 school year. Advertisement
Vilsack said the USDA determined the changes to be made after hearing public feedback and reviewing science-based recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” Vilsack said. “Nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment.”
Public schools serve breakfasts and lunches to 30 million school children every school day, according to the USDA.
Vilsack said those meals are the most nutritious sources of food that more than half of those students have.
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service updates to the school nutrition standards are effective as of July 1 and gradually impose the required changes over the following two years.
The new requirements limit the amount of added sugars allowed in typical school breakfast items and flavored and unflavored milk.
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The new standards also gradually reduce sodium content while maintaining current standards for whole grains.
The new standards will make it easier for schools to serve yogurt, tofu, eggs, nuts and seeds that are rich in protein, reduce the amount of sugary foods and support vegetarian diets and other food preferences,said Cindy Long, USDA Food and Nutrition Service administrator.
Schools also have the option to require locally grown, raised or caught agricultural products that are unprocessed, while the new standards limit the percentages of non-domestic grown and produced foods that schools can serve to students.

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