Understanding the Newest USDA FNS Regulations

Breaking Down the Final Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been committed to continuing the progress of nutrition in the school meal industry. They have been focused on “Building Back Better with School Meals” and have strived to continue giving support to school nutrition professionals as we “build back” from the pandemic. In late February, the USDA made a final rule regarding child nutrition meal pattern requirements that will become effective July 1, 2022 (USDA FNS, 2022). Here are the changes you can expect for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years.

Milk, whole grains, and sodium requirements have been updated during these transitional years until the USDA can effectively match the school meal pattern standards to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2020-2025 (FNS, DOA, 2022). All other standards will remain the same as the 2012 standards. The following guidelines are from the USDA’s final rule on “Transitional Nutrition Standards for Coming School Years”. You may also find the information in a government official visual fact sheet here.

  • Milk: Schools and child care providers serving participants ages six and older may offer flavored low-fat (1%) milk in addition to nonfat flavored milk and nonfat or low-fat unflavored milk;
  • Whole Grains: At least 80% of the grains served in school lunch and breakfast each week must be whole grain-rich; and
  • Sodium: The weekly sodium limit for school lunch and breakfast will remain at the current level in SY 2022-2023. For school lunch only, there will be a 10% decrease in the limit in SY 2023-2024.

The Food and Nutrition Service allows people to provide written comments on the final rule for future legislative considerations. Click here to submit your comments by March 24, 2022. For more background on the “Building Back Better with School Meals”, click here for a comprehensive overview. Of course, menu planning will still come with challenges despite government instructions. You can read more about that here.


F.N.S., U. S. D. O. A. (2022). Transitional standards for milk, whole grains and sodium – final rule. Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium – Final Rule | Food and Nutrition Service. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/fr-020722

USDA, F. N. S. (2022, February 3). USDA helps schools build back better, Issues Transitional Nutrition Standards for coming school years. USDA Helps Schools Build Back Better, Issues Transitional Nutrition Standards for Coming School Years | Food and Nutrition Service. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.fns.usda.gov/news-item/usda-0037.22