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USDA Releases Final Nutrition Standards for School Meals

February 3, 2012

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service published updated nutrition standards last week for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The final rule is in line with the proposed changes that were first announced in January 2011. The updated standards increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk in school meals. The standards aim to reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fat in meals, and establish minimum and maximum calorie levels for each age/grade group.

Milk continues to be an important part of school meals, and eight ounces of fluid milk must be offered with breakfast and lunch. In addition, schools must offer at least two different milk options. However, the new standards allow only for low-fat (one percent) or fat-free plain milk or fat-free flavored milk in the school meal programs. The rule no longer allows schools to offer whole milk or reduced-fat (two percent) milk or low-fat flavored milk as part of the reimbursable meal. The new regulations do not set any specific calorie or sugar limits for fat-free flavored milk sold on the meal line, but with new calorie restrictions for meals, which include milk, schools will be seeking flavored milk with the least possible calories or possibly may limit flavored milk.

The standards for school meals will go into effect for the 2012-2013 school year and are available online. Read thefull NMPF press release.