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USDA Final Rule: School Meal Standards


On April 25, 2024, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), posted the Final Rule for Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to the USDA website External link opens in new window or tab.. This final rule is effective July 1, 2024; however, implementation dates of many of the new requirements are later.

Webinar & Resources

The USDA will be hosting a webinar on this final rule on Thursday, May 9, 2024, at 11:00 am Pacific Time. Registration is available for Final Rule - Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 DGAs External link opens in new window or tab..

Additional resources can be accessed on the final rule web page External link opens in new window or tab., most notably, a comparison chart of the final rule and the proposed rule. Other resources available include a media toolkit and an infographic detailing the rule making process.

Key Updates

Key updates to the nutrition standards are highlighted below, and School Food Authorities (SFAs) are encouraged to review the final rule which has more details:

Added Sugars

  • Finalized the product-based limits for added sugars in breakfast cereals, yogurts and flavored milk served in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), with an implementation date of July 1, 2025:

    • Breakfast cereals are limited to no more than 6 grams of added sugars per dry ounce.

    • Yogurts are limited to no more than 12 grams of added sugars per 6 ounces.

    • Flavored milks are limited to no more than 10 grams of added sugars per 8 fluid ounces or, for flavored milk sold as a competitive food for middle and high schools, 15 grams of added sugars per 12 fluid ounces.

  • Finalized the weekly 10 percent limit for added sugars in NSLP and SBP with an implementation date of July 1, 2027.

Milk

  • No changes to the current milk requirement which continues to allow flavored and unflavored fat-free and low-fat milk for all grades. See limits on added sugars for flavored milk above.

Sodium NSLP

  • The current NSLP Sodium Target 1A is maintained through June 30, 2027.

  • Finalized a 15 percent sodium reduction for school lunch to be implemented by July 1, 2027.
Age/Grade Group NSLP Sodium Target 1A:
Ends June 30, 2027
New NSLP Sodium Limit:
Effective July 1, 2027
Grades K-5 <1,110 milligrams (mg) <935 mg
Grades 6-8 <1,225 mg <1,035 mg
Grades 9-12 <1,280 mg <1,080 mg

Sodium SBP

  • The current SBP Sodium Target 1 is maintained through June 30, 2027.

  • Finalized a 10 percent sodium reduction for school breakfast to be implemented by July 1, 2027.
Age/Grade Group SBP Target 1:
Ends June 30, 2027
New SBP Sodium Limit:
Effective July 1, 2027
Grades K-5 <540 mg <485 mg
Grades 6-8 <600 mg <535 mg
Grades 9-12 <640 mg <570 mg

Whole Grains

  • No changes to current whole grain requirements that at least 80 percent of the weekly grains offered must be whole grain-rich and remaining grain items offered must be enriched.

  • A definition of whole grain-rich has been added to regulations: Whole grain-rich is the term designated by FNS to indicate that the grain content of a product is between 50 and 100 percent whole grain with any remaining grains being enriched.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Nuts and seeds may credit for 100 percent of the meats/meat alternate (M/MA) component in all Child Nutrition Programs and meals beginning July 1, 2024.

Beans, Peas, and Lentils at Lunch

  • Maintains the existing flexibility for beans, peas, and legumes to count as either M/MA or vegetables on the day of service. When SFAs choose to count beans, peas, and legumes as a M/MA, the final rule now allows that serving to also fulfill the vegetable subgroup variety requirement but it does not count towards the daily or weekly vegetable serving requirements. SFAs crediting beans, peas, and legumes towards the M/MA component must still offer additional vegetables to meet the daily and weekly vegetable meal component requirement.

  • Changes the name “legumes (beans and peas)” vegetable subgroup and reference to “beans and peas (legumes)” to “beans, peas, and lentils.”

Supporting Local Food Purchases

  • The terms “locally grown,” “locally raised,” or “locally caught” are now permitted to be used in procurement specifications beginning July 1, 2024.

Buy American

  • SFAs are required to maintain documentation demonstrating compliance with the non-domestic food purchases limit.

  • The Buy American provision must be included in all applicable procurement procedures, solicitations, and contracts.

  • The final rule established a 5 percent limit on non-domestic food purchases when an SFA uses an exception. This limit is achieved in a phased approach:

    • 10 percent beginning school year (SY) 2025–26

    • 8 percent beginning SY 2028–29

    • 5 percent beginning SY 2031–32

Contact Information

If you have questions in the meantime, contact your School Nutrition Program (SNP) Analyst. You can find your assigned SNP analyst on the CDE web page.

The Nutrition Services Division will be reviewing the final rule and updating guidance, training, other resources and communications accordingly.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, May 07, 2024
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