U.S. Department of Agriculture announces final rule on updated School Nutrition Standards

Here’s a look at the upcoming changes to the School Nutrition Standards.
Students eating lunch
The USDA has announced a final rule on its updates to the School Nutrition Standards. | Photo: Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published its final rule on its updates to the School Nutrition Standards.

Intended to reflect the current 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, these updates include changes to sodium limits, added sugar restrictions and more.

Here is a look at what is included:

Added Sugars

The USDA is imposing added sugar limits to school meals for the first time. The sugar restrictions would be phased in over a period of years. The first phase would begin during the 2025-26 school year and would put product-based added sugar restrictions on grain-based desserts, breakfast cereals, yogurts and flavored milk. 

Phase two would start during the fall of 2027 and would limit added sugars to an average of less than 10% of calories per meal for both breakfasts and lunches. This weekly limit would be in addition to the limits included in phase one. 

Added sugar restrictions for breakfast cereals and yogurt will also be coming to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Starting October 2025, added sugar in breakfast cereals served under CACFP will be restricted no more than 6 grams of added sugars per dry ounce and yogurt will not be able to have more than 12 grams of added sugars per 6 ounces.


Originally, the USDA proposed three phases of sodium reductions over a period of several years. The reductions have been scaled back in the final rule.  

Now, for the next three school years, there will be no changes to the sodium limits and schools will continue to follow the current sodium target limits (Sodium Target 1A for lunch and Sodium Target 1 for breakfast).

Starting July 2027, schools will have to further reduce sodium in school lunches by approximately 15% and will have to further reduce sodium in school breakfast by approximately 10%.

The USDA will also be conducting a study to look at how sodium reductions potentially impact student participation.


School nutrition professionals will be able to continue to offer fat-free and low-fat milk that can be flavored and unflavored. Milk offerings will have to adhere to the added sugar restrictions being implemented at the start of the 2025-26 school year.

Whole Grains

The final rule makes no changes to the current whole grain requirements. School nutrition professionals must continue to make sure at least 80% of the grains offered in school lunch and breakfast programs each week be whole-grain rich.

A focus on local

In addition to the changes above, the final rule will also give school nutrition operators the option to require unprocessed agricultural products to be locally grown, raised or caught when purchasing those items for their programs.

Beginning in fall 2025, schools will also have limits on the amount of non-domestic grown and produced foods they can purchase.

“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “Like teachers, classrooms, books, and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and when we raise the bar for school meals, it empowers our kids to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom. Expanding on this major milestone, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to partner with schools, districts, states and industry to build on the extraordinary progress made to strengthen school meals.”



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