The United States Department of Agriculture has been serving America’s children well through school meal programs. The USDA has announced they will publish a new 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.
The USDA 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.
On April 13, 2020, the decision in the Center for Science in the Public Interest et al., v. Sonny Perdue, Secretary, et al., No. 8:19-cv-01004-GLS (D. Md. 2019), the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland found a procedural error with the promulgation of the 2018 Final Rule, and therefore, vacated the regulation. The new proposed rule will 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 was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 25th, and is 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 useful as possible and encourage all interested in school meals to share their comments and recommendations for improvement through regulations.gov.
You can read more on the Proposed Rule at this link: Restoration of Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Flexibilities