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Benefitting nearly 99,000 schools and institutions across the nation that feed 30 million children annually through U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school meal programs, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced additional options to serve healthy and appealing meals on Dec. 6. 

A final rule on school meal flexibilities, to be published later this month in the Federal Register, increases local flexibility in implementing school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium. according to a USDA press release.

The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements final rule offers schools new options, including offering flavored milk, as they serve meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and other federal child nutrition programs. 

“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” said Perdue in the press release. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”

As well as offering flavored milk, the rule, part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens, gives schools the option to offer children low-fat milk, requires half of weekly grains in the school meal program to be whole grain rich and provides more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals. 

Perdue said schools have faced challenges serving meals that both are appetizing to students and meet the nutrition standards.

“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” said Perdue. “We all have the same goals in mind -- the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”

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Rep. Glen 'GT' Thompson (R-PA), Vice Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee and Chairman of the Nutrition Subcommittee said, "If schools have more options, students are going to drink more milk, which was once a staple in the diet of our student populations. I applaud Agriculture Secretary Purdue for taking this important action to ensure students are receiving meals that are both nutritious and satisfying.”

According to a press release from Thomson, milk consumption in schools has dramatically decreased over the past eight years as a direct result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  In response, Rep. Thompson and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) authored H.R. 4101, the School Milk Nutrition Act of 2017, which permits schools to serve 1-percent fat, both flavored and non-flavored varieties.  

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