WASHINGTON — On Dec. 6, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue empowered local schools with additional options to serve healthy and appealing meals. A final rule on school meal flexibilities, to be published later this month in the Federal Register, increases local flexibility in implementing school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium. Secretary Perdue said the final rule will deliver on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) promise, made in a May 2017 proclamation, to develop forward-thinking strategies that ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.
“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” said Perdue. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”
The actions taken today will benefit nearly 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children annually through USDA’s school meal programs. This rule is part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens.
The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements final rule offers schools new options as they serve meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and other federal child nutrition programs. The rule:
- Provides the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages six and older in the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
- Requires half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich.
- Provides more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.
Perdue said schools have faced challenges serving meals that both are appetizing to students and meet the nutrition standards. “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” said Perdue. “We all have the same goals in mind — the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”
“We will continue to listen to schools, and make common-sense changes as needed, to ensure they can meet the needs of their students based on their real-world experience in local communities,” said Perdue.
USDA’s FNS works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.