US Proposes Rules to Limit Sugar in School Meals

    US Proposes Rules to Limit Sugar in School Meals
    Last updated Feb 03, 2023
    Image credit: AP


    • US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday proposed new standards for the nation's school meal program — which serves breakfast to 15M children and lunch to 30M kids every day — including limits on added sugars for the first time ever.[1]
    • The proposal aims to make 80% of the grains served by schools whole grain by the fall of 2024. Limits on sodium and high-sugar items — including cereals, yogurts, and flavored milks — would take effect by the fall of 2025.[2]
    • Last year, a report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that added sugar in 92% of school breakfasts and 69% of lunches exceeded the dietary standard that no more than 10% of calories from meals should come from added sugars.[3]
    • Officials are hoping the proposed standards, which will be in a public comment period from Feb. 7 until April 10, could tackle childhood obesity, which currently affects 14.4M people in the US.[4]
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also reported that the COVID pandemic caused children and teenagers to gain weight at a higher rate than prior to the pandemic.[5]


    Narrative A

    While in theory, this is a good proposal, in practice, it's not: Faced with the current tumultuous economic environment, most schools likely won't be able to implement the regulations. And, even if they do, participation in the meal program, which has already been dipping since the COVID-related free-meal plans ended, will absolutely sink when kids are faced with strict meals, inadvertently pushing students to even unhealthier foods.

    Narrative B

    Better nutrition in schools is important, and this proposal is a major step toward achieving it. Not only would this tackle childhood obesity, but studies show kids who eat healthier get better grades. Best of all, this plan will be rolled out gradually to give schools time to meet the standards. And there’s enough flexibility in it for kids to keep drinking flavored milk and eat the occasional non-whole grain product.

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