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Biden plans to make school meals healthy with less sugar and more vegetables

The Joe Biden administration on Wednesday announced a series of steps to make school meals less sugary and more vegetarian in content, part of its push to improve nutrition for millions of students.

“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as he announced important steps to promote the health of America’s children through school meals.

“Like teachers, classrooms, books and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and raising the bar on school meals will enable our children to achieve greater success inside and outside the classroom,” he said . .

“Building on this important milestone, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to work with schools, districts, states and industry to build on the extraordinary progress made in strengthening school meals,” Vilsack said.

For the first time, added sugars in school meals will be restricted across the country, with minor changes in fall 2025 and full implementation in fall 2027. The decision follows concerns from parents and teachers about excessive amounts of added sugars in some foods, who took this new frontier into account.

Research shows that these added sugars are most commonly found in typical school breakfast foods. Child care providers will also begin limiting added sugars in breakfast cereals and yogurts – rather than total sugars – by fall 2025.

Schools can continue to offer flavored and unflavored milk, which provides essential nutrients children need, such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium. However, by fall 2025, there will be a new limit on added sugars in flavored milk served at breakfast and lunch. Thirty-seven school milk processors – representing more than 90 percent of school milk volume nationwide – have already committed to nutritious school milk options that meet this limit on added sugars.

Schools will have to slightly reduce the sodium content of their meals by fall 2027. But current dietary standards for whole grains will not change.

School meals will continue to emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains, giving children the right balance of many nutrients for healthy, tasty meals. School nutrition professionals are local experts in their communities and will continue to serve meals their students want to eat, while also prioritizing cultural and religious food preferences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

“I’m thrilled that the USDA is taking action to raise nutrition standards for school meals. As a grandmother, I will move mountains to ensure my grandchildren get the healthy food they need to learn and grow. I’m proud support this rule because I know it will make a real difference to the health and well-being of families like mine,” said MomsRising member Mary Beth Cochran, a differently-abled homemaker who is raising four grandchildren in Canton, North Carolina.

“As a mother and as a member of the industry, I think it is important to reduce the sugar content in school meals. To help schools we have created a sample menu showing how our products meet the updated standards. We have also included the added sugars reduced by using high-quality natural ingredients that ensure our baked goods are healthy and delicious,” said Laura Trujillo Bruno, president of Buena Vista Foods.

In Boston, public schools have already implemented sugar limits and reduced sodium in menus.

Published on:

April 25, 2024