USDA to limit sugars in school meals for first time

Newly unveiled nutrition standards for meals offered at schools will see less sugar and sodium on plates in the coming years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

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The final rule will go into effect between the fall of 2025 and the fall of 2027. It will limit added sugars for the first time in cereals, yogurt and milk beginning in 2025, with added sugars making no more than 10% of weekly calories by 2027. Flavored milks, including chocolate milk, will still be available for children.

It will also require a 10% less sodium in meals served at breakfast and 15% less in lunches. Last year, officials proposed a 30% reduction in sodium for school meals, but they lowered that requirement after getting feedback from the public.

The new rule, based in part on the latest recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, aims to improve nutrition and help to reduce diet-related disease.

“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday 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.”

Schools serve breakfast and lunch to nearly 30 million children each day, according to the USDA. The agency said the meals are the main source of nutrition for more than half of those students.