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New Nutrition Guidelines Put Less Sugar and Salt on the Menu for School Meals

U.S.New Nutrition Guidelines Put Less Sugar and Salt on the Menu for School Meals

School meals will soon contain less salt and sugar, but can still include chocolate milk, under new nutrition guidelines released by the Biden administration.

The Agriculture Department announced on Wednesday that it had finalized the regulation it had first proposed in February 2023, having weakened several provisions after feedback from food companies, school nutrition professionals and over 136,000 public comments.

“All of this is designed to ensure that students have quality meals and that we meet parents’ expectation that their children are receiving healthy and nutritious meals at school,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

The new guidelines seek to better align school meals with federal dietary standards and build on a 2010 law that aimed to make cafeteria breakfasts and lunches healthier. That law, championed by Michelle Obama when she was the first lady, became embroiled in political debate almost immediately. The Trump administration tried repeatedly to roll back nutrition standards, and the Biden administration relaxed certain provisions to provide more flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 28.6 million students received or purchased lunch through the national school lunch program in the 2023 fiscal year, and the school lunch and breakfast programs cost the federal government about $21 billion.

When the Agriculture Department proposed updates to the standards last year, school nutrition professionals called the guidelines unrealistic to enforce, and dairy groups expressed concerns over what they called a push to limit milk. The final rule reflects some of those concerns.

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