Whole grains are a key source of fiber and can help support healthy digestion and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. The proposed rule prioritizes whole grains, while providing flexibility for schools to occasionally offer non-whole, enriched grain options.
USDA proposes two options and requests public feedback on which will work best for students, schools, and partners.
- One option would maintain the current requirement under the transitional standards rule, which requires 80% of all grains offered in a school week (based on ounce equivalents) to be whole grain-rich (defined as containing at least 50% whole grains).
- An alternative option would allow schools to serve non-whole, enriched grain foods – like refined, enriched pasta or flour tortillas – one day per school week.
- What are the current requirements for grains?
Current program regulations require at least 80% of the grains offered in the school lunch and breakfast programs per week to be whole grain-rich, based on ounce equivalents. To meet USDA's whole grain-rich criteria, a product must contain at least 50% whole grains; the other grains must be either enriched, bran, or germ. Any other grain products offered that are not whole grain-rich must be enriched.
- What are the proposed requirements for grains?
USDA is proposing to maintain the current requirement that at least 80% of the grains offered per week in the school lunch and breakfast programs are whole grain-rich, based on ounce equivalents.
USDA is also requesting feedback on an alternative option, which would require all grains offered in the school lunch and breakfast programs to be whole grain-rich, except that one day each school week, schools may offer enriched grains. For most school weeks, this would result in four days of whole grain-rich grains, with enriched grains allowed on one day.
In addition, USDA is proposing to define “whole grain-rich” in regulation as follows: Whole grain-rich is the term designated by FNS to indicate that the grain content of a product is between 50% and 100% whole grain with any remaining grains being enriched. Previously, this definition was included only in guidance.
- Why is USDA proposing these changes?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicates the need for all Americans to increase consumption of whole grains, which are a key source of fiber. Accordingly, USDA recognizes the importance of offering primarily whole grain-rich foods in school meals while allowing menu planners some flexibility to provide regional and cultural favorites that are not whole grain-rich. USDA expects both proposed options would be achievable for schools and achieve a successful balance of nutrition, flexibility, and palatability.
- Questions for Public Comment
USDA is specifically seeking feedback on which of the two options will work best for students, schools, and partners. USDA is also requesting specific input on:
- Which option would be simplest for menu planners to implement, and why?
- Which option would be simplest to monitor, and 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 https://www.regulations.gov.