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Transitional Meal Standards SY 2022–23 and 2023–24

This management bulletin provides information regarding the transitional meal standards for school meal programs effective July 1, 2022, and through School Year (SY) 2023–24.

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Program Operators

Number: SNP-03-2022

Date: June 2022

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Final Rule web page at, USDA Memorandum SP 04-2022, CACFP 04-2022: Question and Answer Guidance on the Final Rule Child Nutrition Programs: Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Effective July 1, 2022 PDF located at

Supersedes: Management Bulletin SNP-13-2018 School Meal Flexibilities for School Year 2018–19

Subject: Transitional Meal Standards for School Years 2022–23 and 2023–24

This management bulletin provides information and policy regarding transitional nutrition standards for school meal programs effective July 1, 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule establishing transitional standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium for School Years 2022–23 and 2023–24, and supports the intent of federal meal programs to ensure students have access to nutritious school meals.

Please reference the California Department of Social Service (CDSS) Management Bulletin (MB) web page at or email the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with questions regarding the impact this Final Rule may have on the CACFP meal pattern guidance.


In 2012, the USDA implemented new meal standards set forth by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The updated school meal requirements included increased fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; adjusted requirements for milk; reduced sodium; and set calorie standards. The standards were intended to be implemented gradually, over multiple years, giving school staff and students time to adjust to the changes. Although most schools in California implemented the updated nutrition standards very successfully, legislative and administrative actions delayed full implementation of the requirements for milk, whole grains, and sodium. In addition, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused disruptions to the school meal programs. As a result, the USDA is taking a multi-step approach to update the school meal nutrition standards for the coming school years.

Transitional Meal Standards

This rule establishes the following meal component standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium served as a part of a reimbursable meal in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) or through the Special Milk Program (SMP):

  • NSLP and SBP Program Operators may offer fat-free (unflavored or flavored) and low-fat (1 percent) milk (unflavored or flavored) as part of the reimbursable meal for children in grades K-12. If schools offer flavored milk, unflavored milk must also be available at each meal service.

  • Flavored, low-fat milk is also allowed in the Special Milk Program for participants ages six and older.

Note that California is stricter than the Final Rule for milk in the following two ways:

  • California has stricter requirements pertaining to milk under competitive food rules, specifically that only 1 percent (unflavored only) or nonfat (flavored or unflavored) is allowed when sold to students on campus (California Education Code, Section 49431.5).

  • California’s Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act PDF located at is stricter than the federal meal standards and applies to schools that operate licensed child care centers. In part, this state law requires licensed child centers to offer only low-fat or nonfat unflavored milk to children two years or older. Schools that operate licensed child care centers can learn more about the Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act and the impacts of this Final Rule on the CACFP meal pattern, by emailing
Whole Grain-Rich
  • For grades K-12, at least 80 percent of all grains offered weekly in NSLP and SBP must be whole grain-rich. The remaining 20 percent or less of grains, if any, must be enriched. A whole grain-rich product contains 50 percent or more whole grains by weight, with any remaining grains being enriched.

  • Preschoolers must be offered whole grain-rich foods at least once per day.
Sodium Limits
  • School Year 2022–23: The weekly sodium limit for NSLP and SBP will remain at the current level, known as Sodium Target 1.

  • School Year 2023–24: The sodium limit in the SBP will remain at Sodium Target 1. However, beginning July 1, 2023, the sodium limit in the NSLP will decrease marginally (10 percent) and will be referred to as Sodium Interim Target 1A.

Please note: The sodium limit applies to the average meal offered during the school week. It does not apply daily or per-meal.

For a chart detailing sodium requirements and implementation dates go to the USDA School Lunch and Breakfast Sodium Limits and Timeline web page at

Long-term Meal Standards

The USDA plans to develop long-term nutrition standards to reflect the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to build on the progress made over the past decade. They intend to seek extensive stakeholder engagement throughout the process from schools, industry, families, and other partners to develop new meal standards. Their goal is to publish a proposed rule on the updated standards in fall 2022, and implement a permanent final rule by School Year 2024–25.


You can access the meal requirements on the USDA’s Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Final Rule web page at

To learn more about the USDA’s plans for updating the school meal nutrition standards, visit the Building Back Better with School Meals web page at [Note: The previous information is no longer valid. Please read the USDA's press release entitled, "USDA Helps Schools Build Back Better, Issues Transitional Nutritional Standards for Coming School Years" at]

Refer to the Policy Memorandum SP 05-2022 web page at for updated questions and answers for meal requirements in the NSLP and SBP. You can view this policy memo on the USDA School Meals Policy web page at

If you comingle NSLP and SBP meal services with children in licensed day care centers, keep in mind the provisions of California’s Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act PDF located at when reviewing USDA Guidance.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your county’s School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Specialist. A list of SNP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, Form ID Caseload.

You can also email to request the contact information for your assigned SNP Specialist.
Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, September 11, 2023
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