ICYMI, last week, USDA issued Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium giving school nutrition programs a clearer path forward for the next two years. Directors finally have some clearer nutrition guidance to begin planning both for School Year 2022/23 and past the pandemic towards (hopefully!) more normal operations.
“School nutrition officials across the country are performing miracles every single day, in terms of their ability to provide a decent meal for kids, breakfast and lunch, notwithstanding the fact that they are seeing significant disruptions,” USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an interview. “We want to get back to a place where we are consistent with the nutrition standards, recognizing the reality of today and giving schools sufficient notice and clarity about what is expected of them.”
What’s included in the new transitional standards?
Students are likely to rejoice at the news that there’s a little more leeway in the standards for flavored milk. The new standards now include flavored milks to contain up to 1% milk fat.
Additional time has been granted when it comes to sodium, staying at Target 1 for next year, and a slight decrease (10%) in School Year 2023/24 for school lunch only. A long-term plan for sodium reduction will be addressed in future rulemaking.
At least 80% of grains served in school lunch and breakfast must be whole grain rich (meaning greater than 50% whole grain) over the next two school years. This transitional standard should help significantly with current procurement and supply chain disruptions stemming from the pandemic while nudging school nutrition programs back in the right direction. Additionally, the transitional guidelines allow for some flexibility to allow operators to still serve refined grain products that students struggle to accept the whole grain-rich versions, like whole grain pasta.