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Healthier Foods, Healthier Minds

Administrator Long eating a school lunch with students.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long eats a nutritious and delicious school lunch with students from Granite Ridge School in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin
By Cindy Long, Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Setting kids up for success. It’s what every parent, guardian, and educator wants for our nation’s schoolchildren. They understand the power that small changes have to make a big difference in the learning environment. That’s why here at USDA, we recently announced a generational investment in our children’s futures through updated school nutrition standards.

Right now, schools across our country are serving breakfasts and lunches to nearly 30 million children every day. Healthy school meals that represent the main source of nutrition for more than half of these students and are an essential part of the educational landscape — like teachers, books, or computers – helping to unlock kids’ full potential in and out of the classroom.

It is no surprise that poor nutrition and diet-related diseases are correlated with lower academic achievement, worse health outcomes, and more behavioral problems for kids. We recognize the tremendous work that educators and school nutrition professionals do every day to ensure our children are fueled to thrive. Healthy school meals are an essential element of a quality education and are a part of the solution to promote children’s health. We know that this work is not easy, which is why the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments to help schools provide healthy and nutritious meals to students.

School breakfast offers the jump start to a great day. It sets the tone for the rest of the day, especially for children. It’s why kids who eat breakfast have increased alertness and improved moods throughout the morning, fostering a better learning experience. What’s more, studies find that students who participate in school meal programs consume more whole grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables during mealtimes and enjoy better overall diet quality.

These pivotal updates we are making to school nutrition standards have been shaped by a host of stakeholders, including parents, devoted teachers, school administrators, school nutrition directors, and industry leaders, and are informed by the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

These new standards allow us to take the next step in putting kids’ health at the forefront by:

  • Reducing the amounts of added sugars in school meals, especially at breakfast.
  • Making it easier to offer healthy proteins at breakfast.
  • Scaling back sodium levels over time.
  • Continuing to emphasize fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, to give kids the right balance of nutrients for healthy, tasty meals.
  • That’s not all. We are also providing flexibilities to make it easier for schools to accommodate vegetarian diets and the cultural and religious food preferences of students. This way, every child has access to the nutritious foods they desire and deserve to nourish their bodies and minds.

We encourage educators to uplift these school meal enhancements as an opportunity to maximize the impact of what they do best – educate. Because it’s that commitment to inspire that enables all students to thrive.

For that important gift, our nation couldn’t be more grateful.

To learn more about the updated school nutrition standards, please visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.

Administrator Long in school lunch line with students

FNS Administrator Cindy Long waits for a nutritious and delicious school lunch with students from Granite Ridge School in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin
Page updated: April 25, 2024