Crediting Foods in School Nutrition Programs


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The resources below provide guidance on determining whether foods and beverages credit toward the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meal patterns for grades K-12 in the school nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP, Afterschool Snack Program (ASP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Special Milk Program (SMP). For additional information, review the CSDE's Menu Planning Guide for School Meals for Grades K-12 and Menu Planning Guide for Preschoolers in the NSLP, SBP, and ASP.

NOTE: The meal patterns for preschoolers (ages 1-4) are different from the meal patterns for grades K-12. Effective October 1, 2017, the preschool meal patterns were updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) final rule, Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and follow the same requirements as the CACFP. For information on crediting foods in the preschool meal patterns, see the CSDE's Meal Patterns for Preschoolers in School Nutrition Programs webpage.

General Crediting Guidance  |  Crediting Foods Prepared On Site
Crediting Commercial Processed Products

General Crediting Guidance

Crediting Foods Prepared On Site

To credit foods prepared on site toward the USDA meal patterns, school food authorities (SFAs) must maintain standardized recipes that document the crediting information per serving. For example, to credit macaroni and cheese as 2 ounce equivalents of the meat/meat alternates component and 2 ounce equivalents of the grains component, the SFA's recipe must indicate that each serving contains 2 ounces of cheese and 1 cup of whole grain-rich or enriched pasta. 

Crediting Commercial Processed Products

SFAs must obtain appropriate documentation to indicate that commercial products credit toward the USDA meal patterns. For example, to credit a commercial chicken patty as 2 ounce equivalents of the meat/meat alternates component, the manufacturer’s documentation must indicate that one serving of the product contains 2 ounces of cooked chicken. Allowable documentation includes:

  • the original Child Nutrition (CN) label from the product carton or a photocopy or photograph of the CN label shown attached to the original product carton; or
  • a product formulation statement (PFS) signed by an official of the manufacturer stating the amount of each meal pattern component contained in one serving of the product. 

These are the only acceptable records for documenting a commercial product’s contribution to the USDA meal patterns. Without this documentation, SFAs cannot credit commercial products toward the USDA meal patterns.

Crediting Foods

For handouts and resources on crediting foods for grades K-12 in the school nutrition programs, go to the Documents/Forms section in the left navigation bar.