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Initial Implementation Memorandum: Child Nutrition Programs - Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 DGAs

FNS Document #
SP 19-2024, CACFP 07-2024, SFSP 12-2024
Resource type
Policy Memos
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (257.41 KB)
DATE:May 14, 2024
MEMO CODE:SP 19-2024, CACFP 07-2024, SFSP 12-2024
SUBJECT:Initial Implementation Memorandum: Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
TO:Regional Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

On April 25, 2024, FNS published the final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (89 FR 31962, April 25, 2024). This rule finalizes practical, science-based, long-term school nutrition requirements based on the goals of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (Dietary Guidelines), extensive stakeholder input, and lessons learned from prior rulemakings. This rule also includes minor updates to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to better align child nutrition program (CNP) requirements. These updates represent continued progress toward supporting the nutrition quality of school meals, strengthening the child nutrition programs (CNPs), and advancing USDA’s commitment to nutrition security.

Summary of Major Changes

The rule finalizes gradual updates to the school nutrition requirements in a few key areas to support realistic, sustainable improvements in child nutrition which FNS and the broader school meals community have been partnering on for over a decade. Notably, these updated nutrition requirements include the first ever limit on added sugars in the school meal programs, which will be phased in gradually. In response to stakeholder feedback underscoring the need for durable and achievable nutrition requirements, the final rule implements a single achievable reduction in sodium levels at school lunch and breakfast. To set up schools and students for long-term success, this rulemaking maintains the current whole grain and fluid milk requirements and continues to allow schools to offer fat-free and low-fat flavored milk to all K-12 students.

While many of the changes outlined in the rule apply to the school meal programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), some aspects of the rule also make changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP). Notably, in the CACFP, the final rule replaces total sugars limits for breakfast cereals and yogurt with added sugars limits which align with the added sugars limits for breakfast cereals and yogurt in the school meal programs. USDA recognizes that in order to successfully make improvements to the CNP meal patterns, similar improvements must be made to the broader food environment. To that end, the 2024 WIC final rule, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Revisions in the WIC Food Packages, established limits on added sugars in breakfast cereals and yogurt that are consistent with the limits in this final rule.

It is important to note that FNS did not finalize the proposed change to the current limit for grain-based desserts at school breakfast. Public comments raised concerns about potential negative impacts the proposed change would have to the SBP, especially to alternative breakfast service models that often include grab-and-go friendly items. As a reminder, cookies, dessert pies, cobbler, brownies, and all cake varieties except coffee cake are prohibited from contributing to the grains requirement for school breakfast.

Additionally, the final rule strengthens the Buy American requirement by requiring schools to include Buy American provisions in procurement procedures, providing clarity regarding the limited exceptions to domestic purchases, and by gradually phasing in a cap on non-domestic food purchases.

This final rule is designed to make incremental changes based on critical input from school nutrition professionals, Program operators, state agencies, public health experts, food industry, and families. FNS understands that all our child nutrition partners need time to prepare for changes. Therefore, while the rule is effective July 1, 2024, program operators will not be required to make any changes to menus until July 1, 2025, at the earliest. Standards that may require menu changes, such as added sugars limits and sodium reduction, will be gradually phased in starting in school year (SY) 2025-26.

Initial Implementation Resources

The attached initial implementation chart (Attachment A: Overview of Provisions in Final Rule) describes current program requirements, provides an overview of the provisions finalized in the rule, outlines which CNPs are impacted, and provides the implementation date for each provision. The implementation dates are when state agencies and local program operators must implement the provisions. Provisions that require menu changes must be implemented by the implementation dates; however, program operators are encouraged to work toward reducing sodium and added sugars in their menus in advance of these dates. With state agency approval, CACFP operators may choose to implement the added sugars limits for breakfast cereals and yogurt early. When viewing the chart, please note that each section corresponds to a specific section of the final rule (for example, section 2 outlines added sugars requirements in both the final rule and the attached chart).

As mentioned, these implementation dates were developed based on stakeholder feedback and provide state agencies and program operators time to prepare for required changes. FNS is committed to providing state agencies with additional training and technical assistance on all final rule provisions.

The chart in Attachment B (Attachment B: Table of Changes by Program) provides a streamlined overview of the changes by program to help CNP operators successfully implement the changes from this rulemaking.

FNS appreciates the exceptional effort of state agencies and local program operators working to meet the nutritional needs of participants. State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators immediately. Program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.

Andrea Farmer
School Meals Policy Division
Child Nutrition Programs

J. Kevin Maskornick
Community Meals Policy Division
Child Nutrition Programs


Page updated: May 17, 2024