USDA Announces Changes to School Meals Requirements

On Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced changes to school meals standards to allow additional flexibilities related to milk, whole grains, and sodium. Under the new final rule, previous sodium level reduction timelines will be slowed, whole grain-rich requirements will be lessened, and flavored, low-fat milk will be able to be served. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these changes will provided necessary flexibility to schools that have faced challenges in serving meals that are both appetizing to students and meet nutrition standards. The previous rules requiring whole grains, sodium reductions, and fat-free flavored milk were put into place by the USDA under the Obama Administration.

A number of nutrition experts and advocacy organizations, including the American Heart Association, have expressed concerns with the roll-back of rules. Experts point to the consumption of high levels of sodium and refined grains and their role in increased risks of chronic health conditions in adulthood such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.

The full statement from Agriculture Secretary Perdue is available here and the USDA final rule is available here.