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Academy Commends Updates to Align School Meals with Dietary Guidelines, Honor Cultural Preferences

Published April 24, 2024

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports recent changes to school and childcare nutrition program standards that will improve child health and facilitate learning. With the updates announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, child nutrition programs will align more closely with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and increase flexibility and food options that honor cultural preferences and traditions.

"School meals are a lifeline for children across the country," said registered dietitian nutritionist Lauri Wright, the Academy's 2023-2024 President. "The Academy commends the USDA's child nutrition program updates to ensure meals continue to provide children with the nutrition they need to learn and thrive. The changes proposed will also support equitable access to more plant-based foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, peas and lentils, and are an important step in meeting the cultural, customary, eating pattern, religious and sustainability preferences of children and young adults.

Many of the recommendations the Academy provided to USDA for consideration are included in the final rule:

  • Gradual reductions of sodium and added sugars to more closely align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Flexibilities to increase access to culturally appropriate foods

Academy members will be on the front lines implementing these changes. As noted in Academy comments, time is necessary to execute these changes, as well as technical support and training for school nutrition professionals.

The Academy will continue to advocate for adequate reimbursement and updated school foodservice equipment.

"Increasing access to healthful school meals for all children through these changes will help reduce and eliminate nutrition and health disparities while increasing nutrition security for more than 29 million school-age children receiving school lunches, and the 15 million children receiving school breakfasts," said Wright.

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