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Pingree Applauds New School Meal Standards to Strengthen Child Nutrition and Support Local Food Purchasing in Maine

Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a member of the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, applauded new action by the Biden-Harris Administration to promote the health of America’s children through school meals. Notably, the new standards allow schools to require fresh foods to be locally grown, raised, or caught when making purchases for school meals. Pingree has long been an advocate for local food access in school meals, and this new provision reflects her bipartisan Kids Eat Local Act. 

“Our children deserve healthy, nutritious school meals that are made with locally-sourced ingredients—not highly processed foods,” said Pingree. “The new nutrition standards unveiled today is a win for Maine families and Maine farmers and represents the Biden Administration’s recognition of the critical role that school meals play in a child’s life. Allowing schools to do more local sourcing will also reduce the average milage food travels from farm to plate, reducing our carbon footprint. It is crucial that we now provide adequate resources to schools to support implementation.”

“We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Like teachers, classrooms, books, and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and when we raise the bar for school meals, it empowers our kids to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom. Expanding on this major milestone, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to partner with schools, districts, states, and industry to build on the extraordinary progress made to strengthen school meals.”

Key updates to the nutrition standards to support healthy kids include:

Supporting Local Food Purchases

Also starting in Fall 2024, schools have the option to require unprocessed agricultural products to be locally grown, raised or caught when making purchases for school meal programs, making it easier for schools to buy local foods.

Additionally, starting in Fall 2025, schools will have limits on the percentage of non-domestic grown and produced foods they can purchase, which will enhance the role of American farmers, producers, fishers, and ranchers in providing nutritious foods to schools.

Added Sugars

For the first time, added sugars will be limited in school meals nationwide, with small changes happening by Fall 2025 and full implementation by Fall 2027. USDA heard concerns from parents and teachers about excessive amounts of added sugars in some foods, which factored into this new limit. Research shows that these added sugars are most commonly found in typical school breakfast items. Child care operators will also begin limiting added sugars in cereals and yogurts – rather than total sugars – by Fall 2025.


Schools can continue to offer flavored and unflavored milk, which provide essential nutrients that children need, such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium. There will be a new limit on added sugars in flavored milk served at breakfast and lunch by Fall 2025. Thirty-seven school milk processors – representing more than 90% of the school milk volume nationwide – have already committed to providing nutritious school milk options that meet this limit on added sugars.


Schools will need to slightly reduce sodium content in their meals by Fall 2027. In response to public comments, USDA is only requiring one sodium reduction, and not the three incremental reductions that were proposed last year. This change still moves our children in the right direction and gives schools and industry the lead time they need to prepare. The sodium limits in this final rule will be familiar to schools, as they were supported by leading school nutrition and industry stakeholders during previous rulemaking activities in 2017 and 2018.

Whole Grains

Current nutrition standards for whole grains will not change. Schools will continue to offer students a variety of nutrient-rich whole grains and have the option to offer some enriched grains to meet students’ cultural and taste preferences.

Supporting Other Food Preferences

While not a new requirement, starting in Fall 2024 it will be easier for schools to serve protein-rich breakfast foods such as yogurt, tofu, eggs, nuts, and seeds, which can help reduce sugary food options, while also supporting vegetarian diets and other food preferences.

Click here to learn more.


As a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Pingree has made fighting hunger, reducing food waste, and expanding access to healthy and local food top priorities. Pingree and is the lead sponsor of the Kids Eat Local Act to support local and regional food systems and encourage healthy meal choices among school-aged children. The 2018 Farm Bill included Pingree’s provisions to create the first full-time food loss and waste reduction liaison at USDA, a composting and food waste reduction pilot program, and the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to enhance market access for local producers.

She has also written several bills to reduce food waste and address hunger, including the Food Date Labeling Act to ensure Americans do not feel it is necessary to throw out safe, consumable food, and the School Food Recovery Act to support school projects to prevent food waste.

Last August, Pingree was part of a successful bipartisan effort to extend 12 crucial waivers which allowed the USDA to feed millions of school-aged children. Pingree also cosponsors the Universal School Meals Program Act, which would permanently provide free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to all school children regardless of income, eliminate school meal debt, and strengthen local economies by incentivizing local food procurement.



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