NYC Food Standards Emphasize Reduced Sodium and Less Added Sugar

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
food standards

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: New York City Food Standards, Meals and Snacks Purchased and Served, and New York City Food Standards, Beverage Vending Machines

Overview: NYC Mayor Eric Adams has announced the release of the city’s updated food standards, which will ensure that foods served at city agencies have less added sugar, lower sodium, and more plant-based protein options. 

Location: New York City

Population: 8.2 million

Food policy category: Nutrition

Program goals: To reduce diet-related health consequences among New York City residents. 

How it works: The New York City Food Standards will ensure that food and beverages served at city agencies support a healthy diet. 

Agencies affected by the new standards are: 

  • New York City Administration for Children’s Services,
  • New York City Department for the Aging,
  • New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services
  • New York City Department of Correction,
  • New York City Department of Education,
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,
  • New York City Department of Homeless Services,
  • New York City Department of Parks and Recreation,
  • New York City Department of Youth and Community Development,
  • New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, and
  • New York City Human Resources Administration.

The standards for meals and snacks purchased and served are divided into three categories:

  1. Purchased Food: Unless otherwise specified in the food category requirements, all purchased food must be free of partially hydrogenated oils and contain no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving. Each food category (e.g. beverages, dairy, fruits and vegetables, bread and grains, etc.) includes its own requirements and recommendations for sugar and sodium content. 
  2. Meals and Snacks Served: Deep frying will not be allowed. Sites that serve three meals per day must plan meals to not exceed a total of 2,000 calories or 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Saturated fats and added sugar cannot exceed 10 percent of total calories, and daily fiber content must be at least 28 grams. Specific standards, servings, and serving sizes for each food category must also be met. 
  3. Agency- and Population-Specific Standards and Exceptions: The standards for children age 18 and under are modified to fit their needs. Correctional facilities, youth detention facilities, and men’s shelters have higher caloric limits due to the active nature of their populations. Food items that are considered part of a medical patient’s therapeutic diet do not have to meet nutritional criteria.

The standards for beverage vending machines state that drinks with added sugars cannot be stocked, plain water and/or unsweetened seltzer must occupy at least two slots of the top row in each vending machine, and caloric information must be displayed on each beverage. Other acceptable beverages include 100 percent fruit juice, unsweetened low-fat or nonfat milk, and unsweetened iced tea. 

Progress to date: Executive Order 8, which passed on February 10, 2022, called for a revision of the City Agency Food Standards by April 1, 2022, and every three years thereafter. The new standards were released on April 1 and will go into effect on July 1, 2023.  

Why it is important: The primary aim of the updated standards is to help New Yorkers “lead healthier, happier lives.” Poor nutrition is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Mayor Adams wants to ensure that city agencies do not contribute to poor health among the city’s residents, but rather help to support healthy diets. 

Additionally, the food standards address some of the structural inequities that exist among New Yorkers by making healthy foods accessible to all individuals who are served at city agencies, no matter their race, gender, or financial status. 

Program/Policy initiated: The new standards will go into effect on July 1, 2023. 

Point of contact: 
Office of the Mayor, New York City
Phone: (212) 788-2958

Similar practices: The city of Philadelphia also updated its food standards in 2022. 

Evaluation: The updated standards have received support from prominent political figures and health advocates across the city, including Senator Luis Sepúlveda, New York City councilmembers, and the executive director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center, Dr. Charles Platkin.  

Learn more: 


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