Hoeven Statement on USDA Proposed Rule to Restore Nutrition Flexibilities Under School Meal Programs

Senator Worked to Provide Certainty for School Districts, Nutrition Professionals under Whole Grains, Sodium & Dairy Requirements

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule to restore whole grain, sodium and dairy flexibilities under the federal Child Nutrition Programs. Following Hoeven’s efforts with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA previously finalized a rule to provide this certainty to school nutrition professionals and school districts, however, portions of that rule were overturned by a U.S. federal district court earlier this year. Prior to this, the senator also secured a provision in annual funding legislation that granted schools greater flexibility in meeting USDA’s whole grains and sodium requirements.

USDA will accept public comments on the newly-proposed rule through December 28, 2020. Additional information can be found here.

“While the federal court decision in April was a setback for our schools, we appreciate the administration for continuing to work with us to provide this much-needed certainty for school nutrition professionals,” said Hoeven. “By providing reasonable flexibility under the standards for whole grains, sodium and dairy, this proposed rule will enable schools to provide meals that are nutritious and kids will actually eat, without breaking their budgets.” 

Specifically, the proposed rule would address requirements for: 

  • WHOLE GRAINS: Under the previous regulations, all grains offered with school meals were required to be whole grain rich – down to the croutons on the fresh salad bar. While schools were able to apply for waivers, Hoeven worked to address concerns with the waiver application and provide longer-term flexibility. This rule would allow for half of all grains offered to be whole-grain rich.
  • SODIUM: Schools have made great strides in reducing sodium to meet Target 1 sodium levels. However, school nutrition professionals have warned that lower sodium targets will push many healthy options like low-fat deli sandwiches, soups and salads off the menu, due in part to naturally occurring sodium in foods. In recognition of this, the rule would allow schools to remain at Target 1 sodium levels through the 2023-2024 school year, giving schools additional time to meet the Target 2 requirements and adjust to sodium reduction efforts. The final sodium target is eliminated under this rule.
  • MILK: The rule would permanently give schools the option to serve flavored low-fat milk, in addition to the currently allowed unflavored non-fat and low-fat milk and flavored non-fat milk.