USDA announces changes to school meal standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced changes to its standards for meals provided through its National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.

Applying to the 2018-19 school year, the USDA’s new School Meal Flexibility Rule gives districts the ability to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk as well as the nonfat flavored milk they are currently allowed. In addition, districts that meet the current “Target 1” sodium requirements will no longer need to further restrict sodium levels for 2018-19.

States will also be able to grant exemptions for the coming school year to districts experiencing difficulty in acquiring products rich in whole grains that students find acceptable.

“Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

The Trump administration has moved to roll back a number of the school meal requirements announced during Obama’s time in office. Changes put into the national budget in May relaxed rules around milk, sodium and whole grains for the current school year, which received mixed feedback at the time from foodservice directors who spoke with FSD.

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