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Research shows that nearly all children consume more sodium than recommended, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. The proposed standards consider the latest nutrition science, extensive stakeholder input, lessons learned from previous standards, and the broader food environment and take a more gradual approach to lowering sodium in school meals.

The rule proposes a multi-year approach including two sodium reductions for breakfast (10% each in fall 2025 and fall 2027) and three for lunch (10% each in fall 2025, fall 2027, and fall 2029). This gives school nutrition professionals ample time to implement the changes, the food industry time to develop new or improved products, and students time for their palates to adjust. The reductions also align with FDA’s recommended sodium reduction goals for industry, which USDA expects would help make reducing sodium more feasible for schools as more low-sodium products become available.

What are the current requirements for sodium?

Current regulations require schools to meet Sodium Target 1 (see chart below) for school lunch and breakfast. For school lunch only, schools are required to meet Interim Sodium Target 1A beginning in school year (SY) 2023-24. These limits are overall weekly limits.

National School Lunch Program Transitional Sodium Limits:

Age/Grade Group Target 1: Effective July, 1 2022 Interim Target 1A: Effective July 1, 2023
Grades K-5 < 1,230 mg < 1,110 mg
Grades 6-8 < 1,360 mg < 1,225 mg
Grades 9-12 < 1,420 mg < 1,280 mg

School Breakfast Program Transitional Sodium Limits:

Age/Grade Group Target 1: Effective July 1, 2022
Grades K-5 < 540 mg
Grades 6-8 < 600 mg
Grades 9-12 < 640 mg
What are the proposed requirements for sodium:

USDA proposes weekly sodium limits, informed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary sodium reduction goals, to gradually reduce sodium levels and more closely align with the goals of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For school lunch, this would include three reductions:

  • SY 2025-26: 10% reduction from SY 2024-25 school lunch weekly sodium limits.
  • SY 2027-28: 10% reduction from SY 2026-27 school lunch weekly sodium limits.
  • SY 2029-30: 10% reduction from SY 2028-29 school lunch weekly sodium limits.

Proposed National School Lunch Program Sodium Limits:

Age/Grade Group Sodium Limit: Effective July 1, 2025 Sodium Limit: Effective July 1, 2027 Sodium Limit: Effective July 1, 2029
Grades K-5 < 1,000 mg < 900 mg < 810 mg
Grades 6-8 < 1,105 mg < 990 mg < 895 mg
Grades 9-12 < 1,150 mg < 1,035 mg < 935 mg

For school breakfast, this would include two reductions:

  • SY 2025-26: 10% reduction from SY 2024-25 school breakfast weekly sodium limits.
  • SY 2027-28: 10% reduction from SY 2026-27 school breakfast weekly sodium limits.

Proposed School Breakfast Program Sodium Limits:

Age/Grade Group Sodium Limit: Effective July 1, 2025 Sodium Limit: Effective July 1, 2027
Grades K-5 < 485 mg < 435 mg
Grades 6-8 < 540 mg < 485 mg
Grades 9-12 < 575 mg < 520 mg
Why is USDA proposing these changes?

Consuming too much sodium can have significant negative health impacts. For example, high sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure in children, which affects about one in six kids ages 8-17. Based on the Dietary Guidelines, the average American’s daily sodium intake is about 48% higher than recommended. Food and taste preferences develop at an early age, so limiting sodium in childhood – including in school meals – is important for life-long health.

USDA has incorporated stakeholder input and lessons learned from prior standards into this proposed approach. By proposing ambitious changes that occur over time, and in clear and predictable increments, the proposed standards would give schools time to plan menus that gradually reduce sodium while maintaining palatability. USDA is also committed to providing technical assistance and support to schools working to implement the sodium reductions proposed in this rule.

USDA’s proposed approach also reflects an understanding that changes in school meals, including sodium reductions, must occur in the context of broader efforts to achieve improvements in diet quality for all Americans. That is why the proposed reduction levels align with FDA’s voluntary sodium reduction goals for industry, as part of a government-wide effort to help reduce sodium and promote public health. USDA expects sodium reduction in school meals to be achievable as more food manufacturers develop tasty, low-sodium products for schools and the broader marketplace.

Questions for Public Comment

USDA is specifically seeking feedback on the following topics related to sodium:

  • USDA plans to recommend (but not require) sodium limits for certain products, such as condiments and sandwiches, to further support schools’ efforts to procure lower sodium products and meet the weekly limits.
    • For which products should USDA develop best practice sodium limits?
    • What limits would be achievable for schools and industry, while still supporting lower-sodium meals for children?
  • Does the proposed implementation timeframe provide appropriate lead time for manufacturers and schools to successfully implement the new sodium limits?
  • Do commenters agree with USDA’s proposed schedule for incremental sodium reductions, including both the number and level of sodium reductions and the timeline, or suggest an alternative? Why?
How do I submit comments?

USDA invites interested persons to submit written comments on the provisions of this proposed rule between Feb. 7, 2023 through May 10, 2023. Comments related to this proposed rule may be submitted in writing by following the instructions outlined in the Federal Register Notice.

All written comments submitted in response to this proposed rule will be included in the record and will be made available to the public. Please be advised that the substance of the comments and the identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be subject to public disclosure. FNS will make the written comments publicly available on the Internet via

Page updated: September 26, 2023