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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

USDA to limit added sugars in school meals nationwide for first time ever

Added sugars will be limited for the first time ever in school meals across the U.S.  (DREAMSTIME/TNS)
By Muri Assunção New York Daily News

U.S. students will soon see reduced added sugars in school meals nationwide as part of an overhaul of the nation’s nutrition standards announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As part of the agency’s nutrition makeover, added sugars – sugars and syrups added to foods or beverages when processed or prepared – will be limited for the first time in school meals across the U.S.

While flavored milk will still be available to students – as it provides essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and potassium – added sugar in them will also be limited. Officials said processors representing 90% of the milk offered in schools have already committed to complying with the new guidance.

The new standards will be implemented with “small changes” to food offerings in the fall of 2025 and are expected to be fully in place in two years. By the fall of 2027, calories from added sugars should account for no more than 10% of students’ weekly calories. As part of the update, sodium will also be reduced in school meals by 10% for breakfast and 15% for lunch by mid-2027.

“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday in a statement.

Like teachers and books, Vilsack noted that nutritious school meals are an “essential part of the school environment.”

He added that improving the quality of the food served to children in schools will empower them “to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom.”

According to the American Heart Association, added sugars contribute zero nutrients while adding extra calories that can lead to weight gain and eventually reduce heart health.

That’s especially troubling for children since added sugars are most commonly found in typical school breakfast items.

According to the USDA, K-12 schools serve breakfasts and lunches to nearly 30 million children every school day. For more than half of those kids, these meals are their primary source of nutrition.

“The new standards build on the great progress that school meals have made already and address remaining challenges – including reducing sugar in school breakfasts,” said USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long.

The new guidelines are slightly different from a proposal announced by the USDA early last year. Officials considered feedback from more than 136,000 public comments and more than 50 listening sessions with state agencies, school districts, advocacy organizations, food manufacturers and other stakeholders before coming up with the final rule.