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Comments from the Listening Sessions for the CNP: Revision to Meal Patterns Proposed Rule

The comments below were derived from the live Listening Sessions conducted by the New York State Education Department, Child Nutrition office on March 9th and 16th, 2023.  The intent of providing the collected feedback is to assist School Food Authorities in formulating comments to the proposed rule: Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


  • The proposed sugar limits will negatively impact product availability, cost, student product acceptability and ultimately participation.
  • With the proposed limit on added sugars, minimum calorie requirements should be relaxed. It is very difficult to remain under a lowered maximum added sugar together w/ a lowered maximum sodium content.
  • Although the proposed limits on sugars will be challenging to implement and may result in decreased participation at first, reducing added sugars will optimize the nutrition of meals served, improving the health of students.
  • Our SFA currently does not offer any added sugar items at breakfast, so this change will have minimal impact on our program.
  • We consistently try to offer more wholesome breakfast items, but often cannot meet the saturated fat limits by offering meals like egg sandwiches, which themselves are healthy, and now we will also fail to meet sugar limits.
  • School meals nutrient analysis software do not currently track values for "added sugars,". Systems would have to be updated to accommodate tracking "added sugars."
  • Grab-and-Go options will be more challenging as current pre-packaged items such as cereal bars, breakfast pastries and cereals do not meet the added sugar limit. Scratch cooked items are difficult to provide as Grab-and-Go.


  • Stricter sodium limits are needed, but even barring added sodium for flavor, the natural sodium levels in food are still present and these alone will make meeting the proposed sodium levels difficult. Naturally occurring sodium should not be considered when conducting sodium analysis.
  • USDA Foods and the proposed reduction in sodium do not mesh. USDA Foods would have to be evaluated to ensure it meets the updated requirements.
  • There are immediate conflicts between sodium limits and other requirements on the foods we currently serve. Specifically, whole grain requirements conflict with the proposal to reduce sodium, as breads (especially) are currently a high source of sodium. For example, a single breakfast pastry contains 120mg sodium, but a student would need to receive two to meet the 2oz. grain requirement, which would result in students hitting their weekly sodium limit in a single day. If you replace one breakfast pastry with cheese or yogurt, you run into conflicts with the sugar limits. Limiting one (sodium or sugar) makes it exceedingly difficult to meet the limitations of the other.
  • The sodium content of the food we serve would make it impossible to meet the proposed sodium limits.
  • We will not be able to serve salad dressing, hot sauce, or soup; Students dislike the low-sodium canned vegetables, which results in massive waste; whole grain breads are high in sodium; sodium content of milk will interfere with sodium in other sources.
  • Low-fat chocolate milk contains 220mg of sodium and fat-free chocolate milk contains 250mg of sodium. These items should be exempt from the sodium requirements since they are required components. USDA could set a maximum of 250 mg of sodium per 8-ounce milk.
  • Chicken patties and chicken nuggets are popular, but high in sodium; bread/dough products remain high in sodium: a single 10-inch wheat wrap has approximately 400mg sodium. It will be hard to offer all components and still meet the proposed limits.
  • Altering sodium levels for food will impact preparation cooking processes because sodium content affects boiling and freezing points.
  • Alternatives to sodium, especially considering the proposed sugar limits, will likely result in an increase of chemical additives, which do not have the support of adequate research and may lead to similar health risks now being identified in sugar substitutes.


  • Allowing schools to serve whole milk will make it easier to serve unflavored milk, as students did enjoy whole milk in the past, but short of that, we cannot cut sugars and fats more than we already have.
  • The USDA should maintain the current standard, including flavored milk for K-8, as it has helped to increase students' consumption of milk. Even if only once per week or twice per month.
  • Implementation of the new grade-based restrictions will be extremely difficult because we serve mixed lunch groups that include all grades from both middle school and high school.
  • On days when we run low on flavored milks and white milks become the only option, we end up throwing away significantly greater quantities of milk that are taken, but not consumed. Students overwhelmingly opt out of drinking milk if it's not flavored.
  • Consumption of chocolate milk over white milk can reach a ratio as high as 5:1, so removing flavored milk will result in upset by students and parents. In the past, when schools served only white milks, participation went down even in the poorest schools.
  • In the absence of flavored milk, students will opt for juice or water over white milk, and participation will drop, especially in the middle schools.
  • If students do not drink milk, their calorie and nutrient intake will be reduced, and some children are not getting enough calories and nutrients (i.e. calcium) at home.
  • With new restrictions, the inevitable drop in participation will also result in a dramatically reduced overall demand, which will harm dairy farmers, who already are struggling to keep their businesses running.
  • Even in advocating for reducing students' exposure to flavored milk, the reality is that many of them are getting it at home anyway, so their exposure, or lack thereof, to flavored milk in school is not likely to have much of an impact.
  • Option B is working with the students.
  • Menu planning will become more difficult with alternative A, because we will need different menus for every age group.

Whole Grain

  • How about easing the Whole Grain Rich rule to go back to 50% over the course of the week, the way it was in 2019 and before.
  • I think that option 2 would be easier to maintain so that we would not need to monitor how many grains are a certain percentage.
  • Option 1 is more flexible, so it is easier to implement, especially with offer vs. serve.

Regulatory - General

  • Schools should be allowed to maintain the current standards. It is much easier to implement.
  • These restrictions will leave most schools with no programs at all. Most of our school's meals are made from scratch and our program is already suffering because of lack of participation.
  • The USDA should provide a sample menu that meets these regulations. If they can demonstrate to themselves that these regulations are viable, it will go a long way in making schools more comfortable with these new regulations.

Manufacturing and Vendor

  • Schools are at the mercy of manufacturers/vendors. The worry is that manufacturers/ vendors will refuse to accommodate the new regulations and stop selling to schools altogether to turn toward customers who will buy their current formulas.
  • There is a significant concern that manufacturers will not be able to adjust within the proposed timelines and struggle to turn out new products over past timelines, which further fuels fears of manufacturers cutting off business to schools.
  • It is proposed that the timeline for these goals be drawn out further to allow for the needed changes.


  • The proposed timeline does not offer enough time for schools to adjust to the proposed changes.
  • It is believed that all the proposed changes will result in increased food costs, above the current high cost and supply chain challenges, that are already plaguing these programs.

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