The United States Department of Agriculture has announced that school nutrition standards will be changed for the upcoming academic year in order to “build back better” after these difficult years of the pandemic. School lunch menus will be changed to improve health goals.
The USDA is aiming for stricter standards when it comes to healthy school lunches but are opting for gradual change as it is still a challenge to navigate challenges that have come up due to the pandemic.
The USDA has said that it has implemented “transitional standards” in order to “give schools a clear path forward as they build back better from the pandemic. [This will] “time to transition from current, pandemic operations, toward more nutritious meals.”
The new requirements that will go into effect at the start of the 2022 school year will include changes to standards of milk, whole grains, and also sodium.
Milk for students ages 6 and up will be flavored low-fat (1%) milk, nonfat flavored milk, and nonfat/low-fat unflavored milk only.
Additionally, a minimum of 80% of grains served at school lunches and breakfasts must be whole grain. Lastly, school lunches will need to reduce sodium content by 10% starting from the 2023-2024 school year.
Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary said in the USDA’s statement: “Nutritious school meals give America’s children the foundation for successful, healthy lives. These transitional standards are step one of a longer-term strategy to lean into the school meal programs as a crucial part of improving child health.”
Vilsack made the point that many children receive their healthiest meals while they are at school, which makes it that much more important to improve the quality of school means. As the department said: “provide critical nutrition to millions of children every school day” and so the quality of the meals truly make a huge impact.
He also said: “We’ve got to find the right balance between standards that give our kids the best chance at a healthy future based on the latest nutrition science, and ensuring those standards are practical, built to last, and work for everyone.”
Vilsack continued: “We are eager to listen and learn from their ideas because when it comes to the health and well-being of our nation’s children, we must always continue to aim high and strive for the best.”