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New Nutrition Rules

WHAT A TREAT! These kids in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are excited about their school lunch in December 2021. ANDREW RUSH—PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE/AP

On February 4, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced updates to school nutrition standards. The new rules are meant to help cafeterias get back to serving more-healthy meals. Administrators say providing nutritious meals has been difficult because of supply shortages caused by the pandemic.

Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He calls schools’ efforts to continue serving nutritious food during the pandemic “heroic.” The new policies should get schools back on track to meeting higher standards in the coming years, he says.

Cafeterias will be allowed to serve low-fat chocolate milk, instead of only nonfat. There will be a new standard for the percentage of whole grains in school meals. In fall 2023, the sodium limit for meals must decrease by 10%.

More than 30 million kids depend on free or low-cost school meals. These have become more healthy since 2012, when the USDA set better standards. Vilsack says the new rules “will help schools transition to a future that builds on the tremendous strides they’ve made . . . over the past decade.”

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