HAP's Latest News

USDA Announces Major School Nutrition Overhaul

New rule would limit added sugars, sodium

February 06, 2023

A new federal initiative could change what school lunches look like across the U.S.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its proposed updates to its school meal standards. The department said its proposal better aligns with the latest nutrition science and would emphasize healthy meals.

Notably, the changes would put an emphasis on limiting the amount of added sugars and salt in the weekly school menu. Following public feedback, the agency expects to issue a final rule in time for schools to plan for the 2024–2025 school year.

“Our commitment to the school meal programs comes from a common goal we all share—keeping kids healthy and helping them reach their full potential,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise."

The agency is proposing a multi-year approach that would:

  • Limit added sugars in certain high-sugar products and across weekly menus
  • Allow flavored milk in certain circumstances, with reasonable limits on added sugars
  • Incrementally reduce weekly sodium limits over many school years
  • Emphasize products that are primarily whole grain, with the option for occasional non-whole grain products

The USDA is proposing to limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per week for breakfast and lunch by 2027. It also would reduce the weekly limit for sodium for breakfast and lunch by 10 percent by 2025, with additional benchmarks for 2027 and 2029.

“We’re proposing these changes now to build in plenty of time for planning and collaboration with all of our school nutrition partners,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals are focused on efforts to improve nutrition in our communities and within our hospital facilities.

Starting Tuesday, the federal government is accepting public comment on the proposed changes. Additional information about the school food proposal is available online.