The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new nutritional standards for school meals on Friday (February 3). The new standards aim to limit added sugar in foods and drinks, including flavored milk, cereal, and yogurt.
In addition, the new standards look to reduce weekly sodium limits over time while emphasizing healthier products, with a focus on whole-grain foods.
The new standards will roll out slowly, starting with limits on sugar in the 2025-2026 school year. By the fall of 2027, added sugars in school meals will be limited to 10% of the total recommended calories per week for students.
By the fall of 2029, schools will have to reduce sodium in meals by 30%, with the ultimate goal of reducing it to align with federal guidelines, which call for people over 14 to ingest about 2,300mg of sodium per day.
Officials hope the new nutritional standards will help reduce the rate of child obesity, which affects about 14.7 million children and adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our commitment to the school meal programs comes from a common goal we all share – keeping kids healthy and helping them reach their full potential," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "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. We must all step up to support child health if we are to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration's goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases by 2030, in accordance with the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Strengthening school meals is one of the best ways we can achieve that goal."
The USDA said that there will be a 60-day comment period before the proposed standards are finalized. You can find information on how to submit your comments here from February 7- April 10.