The Department of Agriculture is taking steps to wrap up school lunch changes pursued by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue that would change milk, whole-grain and sodium reduction requirements.

The changes in a proposed rule rolled out last week include allowing flavored, low-fat milk to be permanently available in the program. Half the weekly grains will be required to be whole-grain rich and sodium targets are also tweaked in the final rule to retain Target 1 levels – less than 1,420 milligrams per week – through the end of the 2023-2024 school year. The rule also sets Target 2 compliance – 1,080 milligrams – for the 2024-2025 school year and eliminates the final sodium reduction target – 740 milligrams.

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The move follows an earlier effort from USDA that was blocked in court earlier this year. Last week’s action seeks “to restore the flexibilities included in the 2018 final rule. Despite this procedural formality, schools do not have to change their meals, thanks to the meal pattern flexibilities USDA has already provided in all child nutrition programs through June 30, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.”

The proposed rule was published Nov. 25, which triggered a 30-day public comment period.

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