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USDA rule to give schools more appealing options for meals, milk

The United States Department of Agriculture published a final rule on school meals Thursday. (AP file photo)

The United States Department of Agriculture published a final rule on school meals Thursday.

The rule will allow more local flexibility for school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains and sodium, according to the release.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the final rule will deliver on the USDA’s 2017 promise to develop forward-thinking strategies that ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.

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


The rule will benefit almost 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children a year through the USDA’s school meal programs and give schools new options when serving lunches and breakfasts that are part of federal child nutrition programs.

The rule:

  • Provides the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages 6 and older in the Special Milk Program for Children and the Child and Adult Care Food Program;
  • Requires half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and
  • Provides more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.

Perdue said schools struggle to serve students meals that are both appetizing and meet nutrition standards.

“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” said Perdue. “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 futureswith good nutrition.”

State Rep. Glenn Thompson in a release applauded the issuing of the rule, saying:

“This commonsense rule will allow schools more options, while providing nutritious varieties of milk. If schools have more options, students are going to drink more milk, which was once a staple in the diet of our student populations. I applaud Agriculture Secretary Purdue [sic] for taking this important action to ensure students are receiving meals that are both nutritious and satisfying.”

The release said milk consumption in schools decreased over the past eight years as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Valewood Farms spokeswoman Corrisa Westrick said this is a big win for the local milk industry and will benefit milk producers across the region.

“If kids in schools drink milk that tastes better, instead of the watered down product we have been serving, then we have a dairy customer for life," Westrick said.

“We will continue to listen to schools and make commonsense changes as needed to ensure they can meet the needs of their students based on their real-world experience in local communities,” said Perdue.

The final rule on school meal flexibility will be published later this month in the Federal Register, according to the USDA.

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