USDA final rule to offer more milk, grains, sodium flexibility monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

USDA final rule to offer more milk, grains, sodium flexibility

Federal Register publication of the changes to come before the end of the year.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced that a final rule on school meal flexibilities will be published later this month in the Federal Register. The policy update increases local flexibility in implementing school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains and sodium.

Perdue said the final rule delivers on a promise made a year and a half ago, shortly after his appointment as USDA Secretary by President Trump, and is part of the president’s executive order to eliminate what it considers unnecessary regulatory burdens.

“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” said Perdue in a statement announcing the final rule. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”

Among its provisions, the final rule—called The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements — will:

• provide the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages six and older in the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP);

• require half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and

• provide more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.

In his statement announcing the impending final rule, Perdue noted the need for more flexibility if children are actually to consume healthful school meals.

“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” he noted. “We all have the same goals in mind—the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”

Nor is this likely to be the final adjustment, as Perdue also stated that “we will continue to listen to schools, and make common-sense changes as needed, to ensure they can meet the needs of their students based on their real-world experience in local communities.”

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