USDA Improving nutrition standards for school meals

by Laura Reilly

The Washington Post recently reported that the USDA has announced new, more stringent, national nutrition standards for its school feeding program. This program reaches 30 million students at 100,000 schools nationwide. The new standards propose to lower sugars, fat and salt, while increasing whole grain content in the school meals. These higher standards will gradually be implemented over the next few years. All students were eligible for these meals at targeted schools during the Covid pandemic, but eligibility criteria were restarted for the 2022-23 school year.
Child obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled over the last 30 years, to the point where approximately 20% of all children between 2-19 years of age are deemed obese. Some food trade groups believe that these increased nutritional standards will lower the consumption of school meals because they will be judged by students as less tasty. However the Food Research and Action Center believes the new standards are well-designed to balance the goal of meals’ increased nutritional value without a decrease in consumption due to student preferences.
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