WASHINGTON (AFP): Cut the salt, cut the sugar, but you can keep the chocolate milk.
The US Agriculture Department proposed new standards on Friday aimed at tackling obesity and providing millions of American children with more nutritious school meals.
“Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
“Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future,” he said.
The proposed changes to federally funded school meals would gradually reduce the weekly amount of sodium, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure or heart disease.
They would also limit the amount of sugar, which can cause obesity or Type 2 diabetes, targeting high-sugar products like yogurts and breakfast cereals.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent — or 14.7 million — of American children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese.
Younger children would be provided with more access to low-fat and non-fat milk while flavored milk would be allowed for older children “with reasonable limits on added sugars.”
Greater emphasis would be placed on whole grains, which are known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.
According to the Agriculture Department, some 30 million children a year participate in the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or no-cost meals in public schools and non-profit private schools.
About 15 million a year are enrolled in the School Breakfast Program.
The proposed changes will be open for public comment for 60 days before being adopted for the 2024-2025 school year.