HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – School meals are getting a makeover.
Facing historically high childhood obesity rates, the USDA unveiled revised nutrition standards earlier this year for meals in America’s public schools. On the menu, whole grains, non-fat milk, and sugar substitutes. Off the menu, foods with added sugar and excess salt.
The first reductions of added sugars would be required by the 2025-2026 school year, starting with foods such as sweetened cereals, yogurts and flavored milks. The plan also limits desserts, such as muffins and doughnuts, to no more than twice a week at breakfast.
By the fall of 2027 those added sugars would be reduced to less than 10 percent of the total calories per week for breakfast and lunch. By the fall of 2029 sodium in school meals cut by 30 percent.
Schools serve hundreds of millions of meals to kids across the U.S. every year. Advocates say they hope the guidelines can curb childhood obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, the guidlines come amid severe cuts to pandemic-era funding. Critics contend implementing them will be expensive for districts that have already been forced to tighten their belts.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the changes are phased in over time to allow schools and food manufacturers to adjust to the new standards.