USDA publishes proposed rule maintaining school meal flexibilities

USDA FNS

In line with USDA’s unwavering promise to serve America’s children well through school meal programs, the department announced it will publish a proposed rule maintaining flexibility for schools to serve tasty meals their kids will be eager to eat. These proposed changes respond directly to the needs of nutrition professionals who are the experts on-the-ground, hearing from our children every day.

The proposed rule would maintain flexibility in USDA child nutrition program meal requirements related to milk, grains, and sodium, by:

  • Allowing flavored, low-fat milk in the Child Nutrition Programs;
  • Allowing half of the weekly grains offered through the school meal programs to be whole grain-rich; and
  • Providing schools more time for gradual sodium reduction by retaining Sodium Target 1 through the end of SY 2023-2024, continuing to Target 2 in SY 2024-2025, and eliminating the Final Target.

USDA recently issued a separate rule as an administrative step to ensure the department’s procedural compliance with a court ruling regarding its 2018 final rule on child nutrition program flexibilities. Today’s rule proposes to restore the flexibilities included in the 2018 final rule. Despite this procedural formality, schools do not have to change their meals, thanks to the  meal pattern flexibilities USDA has already provided in all child nutrition programs through June 30, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

The proposed rule announced today will publish in the Federal Register on Nov. 25th, followed by a 30-day public comment period. USDA is committed to listening to and collaborating with customers, partners, and stakeholders to make these reforms as effective as possible, and encourages all those who are interested in school meals to share their comments and recommendations for improvement through regulations.gov.