The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new school meal plan aimed at enhancing the health of America's children by restricting added sugars for the first time.

The updated meal plan is designed to be in line with the U.S. dietary guidelines, while it serves breakfast to over 15 million students and lunch to nearly 30 million students daily, at an annual cost of approximately $22.6 billion. Starting Fall 2025, there will be a cap on added sugars in breakfast and lunch meals.

"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," the USDA said in a news release.

Flavored milk such as chocolate milk will still be available in elementary cafeterias, but with limited added sugar. This is contrary to the original plan of offering only unflavored milk.

Thirty-seven school milk processors, which make up over 90% of the school milk supply across the country, have committed to offering healthy milk choices that adhere to the newly added sugar limit, the USDA said.

Sodium levels in children's meals will also be reduced, but it won't reach the 30% proposed levels in 2023. Childcare providers will also decrease added sugars in cereals and yogurts starting in the Fall of 2025. The existing nutrition standards for whole grains will remain unchanged.

"Nutrition standards for school meals will be gradually updated to include less sugar and greater flexibility with menu planning between Fall 2025 and Fall 2027. The Department arrived at these changes after listening closely to public feedback and considering the latest science-based recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," the USDA announced Wednesday.

The USDA announced the initial proposal in February 2023 and received extensive feedback during the 90-day public comment period, accumulating over 136,000 public comments in total. The department made the changes after hearing from parents and teachers worried about added sugar in foods, particularly in school breakfast items.

"We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential. 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," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.